said to be a ‘superhero’ robot as it wears different outfits to perform different tasks, MIT computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory’s (CSAIL) origami-style bot can transform to walk, roll, sail and glide using recyclable exoskeletons. sourcing influence from animals like butterflies that adapt their exterior features to survive, the cube-shaped ‘primer’ device takes up these suits, which start off as sheets of plastic, by heating and folding them around itself into specific shapes. when its activity is complete, it can shed its ‘skin’ by simply immersing itself in water, which in turn, dissolves the exoskeleton.


all the different forms of ‘primer’
all images courtesy of MIT CSAIL

 

 

if we want robots to help us do things, it’s not very efficient to have a different one for each task,says daniela rus, CSAIL director and principal investigator on the project. ‘with this metamorphosis-inspired approach, we can extend the capabilities of a single robot by giving it different ‘accessories’ to use in different situations.


‘walk-bot’ with extra equipment for carrying items

 

 

with ‘primer’, MIT CSAIL aims to literately transform the abilities of robots and make them more flexible. at present, robots have fixed structures and parts that are specifically designed to perform certain tasks. however, their shape-shifting device and its many exoskeletons enable it to turn into a ‘walk-bot’, a twice-as-fast ‘wheel-bot’, a floating ‘boat-bot’, and a soaring ‘glider-bot’. as well as all this, the technology doesn’t stop there as ‘primer’ can wear multiple outfits at once, meaning that its functionality can be doubled per task.


the robot can shed its exoskeleton by immersing itself in water

 

 

imagine future applications for space exploration, where you could send a single robot with a stack of exoskeletons to mars,‘ says postdoc shuguang li, one of the co-authors of the study. ‘the robot could then perform different tasks by wearing different outfits.


it can also become a rolling robot

 


it can also float on top of water when transformed as ‘boat-bot’

 


the device can even fly as ‘glider-bot’

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