Functional paper robots bring origami into the 21st century.
Robotics might sound like a complicated and expensive hobby, but a team of researchers from MIT, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University have developed a way to build paper robots for less than $30. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation, makes it easy to design, customize and print a robot in a matter of hours.
So far, the team have created a six-legged insect robot that could be used for exploring a contaminated area and a gripper that could be used by people with limited mobility. The eventual aim is that individuals could identify a household problem, head to a local printing store to select a blueprint, and then customize the design to deal specifically with their problem.
The project’s secret sauce is a piece of software that uses computational geometry to take all the hard work out of designing a robot. You just have to tell it what kind of robot you’re hoping to build, and it will generate a piece of paper with cut and fold instructions. Then just integrate the design with some electric components, and you have a robot built with your very own hands.
“Our goal is to develop technology that enables anyone to manufacture their own customized robot. This is truly a game changer,” said Professor Vijay Kumar, who is leading the team from the University of Pennsylvania. “It could allow for the rapid design and manufacture of customized goods, and change the way we teach science and technology in high schools.”
While the project aims to make robotics more accessible, it’s name is ironically difficult to string together, “An Expedition in Computing for Compiling Printable Programmable Machines.”