Custom robots in a matter of minutes

Interactive Robogami enables the fabrication of a wide range of robot designs.
Interactive Robogami enables the fabrication of a wide range of robot designs.
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Even as robots become increasingly common, they remain incredibly difficult to make. From designing and modeling to fabricating and testing, the process is slow and costly: Even one small change can mean days or weeks of rethinking and revising important hardware.

But what if there were a way to let non-experts craft different robotic designs — in one sitting?

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) are getting closer to doing exactly that. In a new paper, they present a system called “Interactive Robogami” that lets you design a robot in minutes, and then 3-D print and assemble it in as little as four hours.

One of the key features of the system is that it allows designers to determine both the robot’s movement (“gait”) and shape (“geometry”), a capability that’s often separated in design systems.

“Designing robots usually requires expertise that only mechanical engineers and roboticists have,” says PhD student and co-lead author Adriana Schulz. “What’s exciting here is that we’ve created a tool that allows a casual user to design their own robot by giving them this expert knowledge.”

The paper, which is being published in the new issue of the International Journal of Robotics Research, was co-led by PhD graduate Cynthia Sung alongside MIT professors Wojciech Matusik and Daniela Rus.

The other co-authors include PhD student Andrew Spielberg, former master’s student Wei Zhao, former undergraduate Robin Cheng, and Columbia University professor Eitan Grinspun. (Sung is now an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania.)

Read the full story here: https://www.csail.mit.edu/custom_robots_in_a_matter_of_minutes