Some assembly required.
A team of researchers at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have come up with an ingenious, origami-inspired robot that can turn itself into a huge number of three-dimensional shapes.
Best of all, it can fold and unfold itself like a piece of flat-pack Ikea furniture, which its creates say makes it an ideal candidate for assisting astronauts inside the cramped environment of a spacecraft.
As seen in a video demonstration, the bot — called Mori3 — can dexterously walk and pose with four flattened limbs, or even roll around once bent into a ring shape.
"Our aim with Mori3 is to create a modular, origami-like robot that can be assembled and disassembled at will depending on the environment and task at hand," said Jamie Paik, director of EPFL's Reconfigurable Robotics Lab and co-author of a new paper published in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence about the unusual bot, in a statement.
The robot's unusual polygonal shape when folded, essentially a flat triangle, forced the researchers to start from scratch.
"We had to rethink the way we understand robotics," said co-inventor Christoph Belke, a post-doctoral researcher in robotics at EPFL, in the statement. "These robots can change their own shape, attach to each other, communicate and reconfigure to form functional and articulated structures."
The researchers are now investigating whether multiple robots could attach themselves to each other to be even more useful.
"Of course, a general-purpose robot like Mori3 will be less effective than specialized robots in certain areas," Paik said. "That said, Mori3’s biggest selling point is its versatility."
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