Everybody has been in a situation when we wish we had stronger arms or, even better, an extra pair of them. Whether it is attaching something large overhead or manipulating something heavy, we all know we are bound to run into the limitations of our own anatomical design. In some professions, such as construction work, these difficulties can surface practically every day. To make physical drudgery less stressful and traumatic, researchers around the globe are now developing a new kind of robots that will be worn on the body just like your regular backpack.
Robots help out—the way we want them to!
Both humans and robots work in manufacturing plants however, they don’t usually work alongside one another. Robots are most often used in repetitive, exhausting or hazardous work, while people are needed for tasks that require finer skill and detail. An earlier post on this blog discussed some of the ways robots have started working alongside humans but there are of course some important issues to consider if we really want to make this kind of collaboration work.
What started out as an undergraduate summer project at the Distributed Robotics Lab (DRL), part of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT, has now turned into a long-term plan to
Researchers at MIT envision a bag of tiny machines that can assemble into just about anything…
Remember that scene in the 1964 Mary Poppins film where Julie Andrews manages to retrieve everything from plants to coat hangers out of her hand bag? Well… there’s no magic involved however, the Distributed Robotics Lab (DRL) and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence lab (CSAIL) at MIT are currently working on something rather similar.
Designed, programmed and printed!
The video above displays three prototypes resulting from a new project lead by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). With a 10 million USD grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the collaboration of teams from Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, researchers hope to develop technology that could enable anyone to manufacture their own customized robot.
MIT professor Sherry Turkle says no but she’s intrigued about some of the deep and meaningful emotions they can provoke in humans.
Turkle stresses that although we are still very far from the point where robots are indistinguishable from humans- as in the movie Blade Runner, based on Phillip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?- humans are capable of forming attachments to robots. During the interview Turkle discusses some of the issues raised through her studies with Cynthia Breazeal, founder and director of the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab.