Is this the first sign of the robot uprising? Engineers at the University of Pennsylvania's Modular Robotics Lab have created a "foam synthesizer cart" that can build and repair a variety of different robots using modular components (called CKBot modules) and spray foam.

Wired's Olivia Solon writes:

Robots tend to be designed with a specific task in mind, and their parts are built accordingly. However, there are many missions where this approach doesn't work. In cases such as disaster recovery, intelligence gathering and space exploration, it isn't always clear what task a robot might be assigned.

The Foambot was created by a team led by Shai Revzen and comprises of a central platform - a "foam synthesizer cart" - and several jointed modules that be released from the cart and then maneuvered into position. Once the configuration is right, the mothership can spray insulation foam to connect the clusters in order to make a robot - be it a quadruped [see the video up top] or a snake [featured here].

These robots obviously have a ways to go before they'll be capable of orchestrating an effective global coup, but UPenn's Mod Lab is already looking for ways to make it happen:

By carrying a selection of collapsible molds and a foam generator, a robot could form end effectors on a task-by-task basis - for example, forming wheels for driving on land, impellers and oats for crossing water, and high aspect ratio wings for gliding across ravines.

[The UPenn Mod Lab via Wired + IEEE]

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