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Creating Printable, Programmable Machines

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The self-folding mobile robot prototype.

Daniela Rus, head of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is pioneering the science of printable, foldable, and DIY robotics with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Credit: Harvard University's Wyss Institute

Daniela Rus, head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is pioneering the science of printable, foldable, and do-it-yourself robotics.

Working with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, Rus is building a future in which people could produce custom robots and program them with simple natural-language commands in a matter of hours, using two-dimensional desktop technology at home.

Her team is developing methods to completely automate the process, from sketches to design to printing, fabrication and, ultimately, control. Rus says part of the solution involves developing ideas and algorithms to design self-folding robots, where the machine is built flat but contains conditions within it to fold into a three-dimensional structure through the application of heat, electricity, or some other means.

Her team is creating a database of robot design and control algorithms that are modular and can be combined to create new robots with a range of abilities.

Rus' vision is to make robots as pervasive as computers, and to move to the democratization of physical tasks. "And along the way, we will continue to rethink computing to make it different, better, more powerful, and use it to solve humanity's greatest challenges," she says.

From National Science Foundation
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