Human beings make tools. Animals make tools. A tool gives an advantage over adversity and guarantees survival. Will the same happen if a robot makes a tool?
Researchers at ETH Zurich are on a mission to not only have robots make tools, but they are teaching the bots how to use them. Their goal is to simplify the complexity of this type of robot, while at the same time giving it extraordinary capabilities like creating its own parts, fixing itself, and even creating other robots from printed parts and integrated motors.
So far, their robot consists of a mechanical arm with Hot Melt Adhesive (HMA) capabilities. This means that at the end of the mechanical arm is just a hot glue gun that can be used to create parts layer by layer. In their effort to avoid complexity, it has no manipulator mechanisms, instead it only uses the stickiness of the printed parts to move them and place them.
The project has only just been started. In a demonstration of their progress, ETH researchers showed that their robot is capable of creating tools and thus performing tasks that it would not be able to do otherwise. It took the robot about an hour, but it was able to create a cup with a handle to transport water, an impressive task for a robot with no hands.
Next, the team or researchers are working to give the robot perception capabilities to eventually achieve a completely autonomous robot. At the moment, the robot can only create simple shapes in about an hour’s time; a long way away from creating an entire mechanism, but even bots need to take it one HMA layer at a time.