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Self-assembling robot: MIT robots use science behind Shrinky Dinks, $100 to make

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A self-assembling robot that is being compared to a smaller version of the “Transformers,” has been created by a group of scientists at MIT. These robots were built using typical hobby technology, motors, batteries and other pieces found in a local hobby store, according to Yahoo News on Aug. 7.

The scientists have created their newest version of the self-assembling robots for a cost of about $100. This is down from about $1000, which is what it cost to build the first few robots of this type.

One of the more interesting aspects of these new self-assembling robots is where some of the ideas were borrowed from when creating this pioneering technology. The robots come together by using heat-seeking technology and the way that heating activates the hinges of the robots to make it connect together was borrowed from the science behind the toy Shrinky Dinks.

The way the robots fold and unfold is borrowed from the ancient paper folding art of origami. The scientists took the technology already available in hobby shops, along with the science behind the children’s Shrinky Dink art project-toy and put it all together to make these new transformer-like robots.

The self-assembling robots are made of paper and weigh next to nothing. The robots start to assemble and when complete, it rises on “four stumpy legs and starts scooting in a herky-jerky manner. It transforms from flat paper to jitterbugging four-legged robot in just four minutes,” describes Yahoo.

Besides this being an amazing transformation to watch, the uses for this type of robot are never ending. They can be built bigger and better as the scientists advance. They can be used in space exploration, search and rescue missions and environments where it is just too dangerous for humans to tread.

The Raw Story suggests that these new self-assembling robots “point the way to self-assembling furniture and satellites.” How wonderful it would be if the technology that allows these robots to self-assemble is applied to all those items you purchase that come with the directions of “Some Assembly Required.” This usually means be prepared to spend hours assembling your child's toy, your new grill or a baby's crib.

How nice it would be to lay all the pieces on the floor and watch them slowly come together, just like a Transformer! While this won't be happening anytime soon, the basic science behind something like this is found in the new self-assembling robots.

The self-assembling robots can fit into cramped spaces and because of the cost, if one is lost or destroyed, building another one won’t break the bank. Scientists report this is just the start of the self-assembling robot journey. Once this basic design is modified and improved on through the years, there is no telling what this technology will look like as it progresses in the future.

Scientists expect that others will jump on the band wagon and build these robots themselves, improving on the technology with every new version. The materials to make this robot are readily available to anyone and the price is within reach of the average novice inventor.

The robots that the researchers made at MIT are about six inches long, six inches wide and two inches tall. They weigh in at less than three ounces. The self-connecting robots take four minutes to assemble and stand up and once upright, they move at about two inches per second.

Sam Felton and study co-author Daniela Rus of MIT described what the future of these robots might look like. Coupled with the new technology of a 3-D printer, the robots can be made into all types of shapes and sizes in the future.

You could walk into a store like Kinkos and order a dog robot or you have a robot made that plays chess with you. The method used to build these robots cost nothing in comparison to the extraordinary amount of money scientists have spent creating modern-day robots.

"This is a simple, flexible and rapid design process and a step toward the dream of realizing the vision of 24-hour robot manufacturing," Rus said.

While the robots are being compared to “Transformers” of the movie fame, they don’t exactly live up to the major transformations that you see on screen. Once they’ve completed their heat-seeking self-assembly stage and unfold to stand upright, that is as far as they go when it comes to transforming.

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