In June GFR reported on robots that use shape-changing origami wheels to get around, and in the past few weeks, researchers have made even greater strides when it comes to integrating the art of folding into their robots. Scientists from Harvard and MIT (of course) have created an origami robot that can self-assemble from a flat pack and then run away.
As anyone who’s decent at origami knows, you can actually devise a pretty sophisticated structure via folding. The scientists used this potential, along with inspiration from natural systems (flower petals, proteins and amino acids, etc.) to create their robot. They laser-printed flat composites of the design, which can be punched out of paper and folded. They program the composite, basically telling it where, how, and how much to hinge and fold, and then battery power allows it to assemble itself in roughly four minutes. The same research group previously devised robots that could self-assemble from similar materials when heated, but this model delivers heat to the robots’ folding parts via electricity, not an oven.
It’s the first machine to fold itself into a shape where it can then walk away. The design opens the doors to quick and easy printing and assembly of robots, leaving more and more of the work to the device itself, and less and less to humans, which is both terrifying and awesome. These are the types of robots that would be particularly useful in space.
While ASIMO can’t fold itself, it can probably could learn how to fold another robot from paper. It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on the most advanced robot in the world, which recently launched its latest version in Brussels.
ASIMO, which is produced by Honda, has facial and voice recognition, as well as improved physical capabilities, such as running nearly six miles per hour (which makes it the fastest humanoid robot out there), hopping on one leg, dancing, and playing soccer. Lead engineer Satoshi Stigami says they’ve made great advancements, particularly with regards to ASIMO’s movements, but they still have a “long way to go” before it can fully integrate and coexist with humans, particularly in a work environment. They’ll continue to improve its ability to communicate, as well as move dexterously, but they’re encouraged by the work they’ve done thus far. I’m happy to hear it — I don’t want to see ASIMO fall down the stairs ever again. Based on its moves, I feel that being a back-up dancer for Beyonce might be a worthy goal for the ambitious robot.