Posts Tagged ‘mit’

Some Assembly Required

Posted by on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

Skylar Tibbits is an architect and MIT fellow who worked with molecular scientist Arthur Olson to create a huge spinning device that demonstrates how particles can be attracted to one another when they move and come into contact, usually resulting in the creation of larger and more complex structures.  This movie by Karen Eng shows the model, named the Self-Assembly Line, in motion.

What I particularly like about Skylar’s demonstration of the shaken-chain-link creation is it’s similarity to those tiny pill sized foam toys you see in the grocery store aisles. These are the cardboard-backed packages hanging off the sides of the grocery shelves which promise instant-dinosaurs or instant-sea-creatures. You drop one of those colored pills in warm water, the capsule dissolves, and you have a tiny foam dinosaur.1 With Skylar’s chain designs, one could “pre-program” a chain, hand it off to someone who would then shake it, and then the “pre-programmed” dinosaur2 shape would then emerge.3

How awesome would it be to pre-program little surprise toys that could be shaken into being? Interestingly, with some dissolveable PVA and a dual-extruder 3D printer, you could actually print the entire design as one solid piece, dunk it in water to remove the connections, and then hand it off to play with.

  1. Or sea creature []
  2. Or sea creature []
  3. Shake-a-saurus? []
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The Future: Print Customized Robots On Demand From A Catalog

There was a flurry of interest yesterday over MIT’s “Expedition in Computing for Compiling Printable Programmable Machines.” Read: customized robots on demand.

Professor Daniela Rus and her team at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) are joined in the NSF-funded project by a UPenn team led by Professor Vijay Kumar and Associate Professor Rob Wood from Harvard. Together the group are devising a system whereby a person could think of some high-level functionality, and work through an interface in a retail environment to print out a machine that accomplishes that goal.

Let’s flesh that out a bit. Suppose, for example, that the screws on your kitchen cabinet doors are perennially loose. You think, “I need a little guy to move around once a week, find the loose screws, and tighten them.”

Unless you’re a robotics expert, it will take you a prohibitively long time to make such a thing. But suppose there were a system that let you select the functions and physical dimensions you needed. Your selections would run through a compiler, the way source code is compiled into an executable, and a robot would emerge to your specifications. Of course, if you have a MakerBot, you could print it out for yourself, rather than head to a store, as PopSci reminds us.

This is a lofty goal and it requires a shift in societal attitudes toward robotics. CNET says Rus indicated the “device’s programming environment would only control the actions of the individual robots and be easy enough for a non-programmers to use.” Or as Wired puts it, they want to create a “one-size-fits-most platform to circumvent the high costs and special hardware and software often associated with robots.”

This sounds like Dreamweaver for robots, no? It’s less about popularizing robotics literacy and more about mastering the drag and drop. It’s democratizing the manufacturing of whatever fits the needs of the individual without requiring the individual to become an expert in something new.


More from Gizmagieee Spectrum, Digital Trends, MSNBC, Smart Planet, and Eureka, and cool video of the project’s first prototype below.


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You had me at scanner

Posted by on Thursday, August 11, 2011 in Uncategorized
SIGGRAPH 2011 - Portable, super-high-resolution 3-D imaging from MIT

SIGGRAPH 2011 - Portable, super-high-resolution 3-D imaging from MIT

It used to be that creating highly detailed microscopic scans required huge expensive pieces of equipment, vibration isolation tables and hours of processing.  Researchers at MIT have developd a cheap small and portable 3D scanner about the size of a soda can that can detect features as small as 0.0001 mm tall and 0.0002 mm wide – and it can create the 3D images nearly instantaneously.

I cannot wait to plug one of these into my Thing-O-Matic!

Hattip to SlashDo

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