Gadgets for humans

This metamorphosis bot can change outfits for different tasks

Some robots are learning to walk, others are built for rolling, and still others are trying to conquer flying. Researchers at MIT have created one that can do all of that and more. In a paper titled “Robotic Metamorphosis by Origami Exoskeletons” a group of scientists detail a process by which they’ve made a robot that uses heat to don a suit and water to doff it.

The robot, called Primer, is controlled by magnets which allow it to walk, roll, glide, and float its way from one suit to another. Once it arrives at a purpose-build sheet of plastic it uses heat to conform the substance to itself like armor.

As you can see in the video, Primer can wear more than one outfit at a time. While it doesn’t look intimidating just yet — and the real accomplishment is in making it so small —  it’s easy to imagine huge versions of this combining mechanics and heat-deforming plastics to turn a yellow Camaro into robot that can hug you.

Daniela Rus, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory director and principal investigator of the project, said:

I can imagine one day being able to customize robots with different arms and appendages. Why update a whole robot when you can just update one part of it?

The applications for adaptable robot technology are endless, and anything that promotes reusable parts for one gadget instead of a new device for every purpose is a good thing in the world of tech.

Next the researchers plan on introducing more abilities to Primer including burrowing in sand, diving underwater, and camouflaging itself. I’m not quite sure how I feel about an underwater ninja robot on the loose – except to say I want one immediately.

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Published September 27, 2017 — 18:00 UTC