Image via Shutterstock/click ahead to see a video of the actual robot
European scientists from BTH Zurich Bio-Inspired Robotics have created a robot that is capable of fashioning its own tools in order to complete a specific task. It is a fairly staggering achievement, not least because only a select number of creatures on the planet, such as ourselves and chimps, use tools.
Instead of presenting a robot with a toolkit to use, the team from ETH Zurich gave their robot a single tool from which it could manufacture other items. In this case, it was a hot glue gun. The Swiss team has previous experience with adhesives or, as they call it, HMA (Hot Melt Adhesive). Last year, they demonstrated that by building up layers of the glue, it was possible to create simple shapes. They have now passed this skill on to a robot in order to see if it could complete a simple task — transport water from one place to another.
Using the HMA, the robot was able to fashion a small cup that it then attached to itself in order to scoop up the water and transport it to another location. (Scroll down to watch a video of the robot in action).
You may have noticed that the HMA gun works in a similiar way to 3D printing, however the reason that the robot wasn’t simply able to print a complete cup was that thermoplastic materials don’t provide any good ways of bonding objects to it and currently, the robot doesn’t have the ability to grasp.
While it may seem incredible, don’t start planning for a potential robot uprising just yet. While the task was performed autonomously by the robot, the planning was not. The robot does not have any perception hardware, so it has to be told when and how to do something. But of course, this is something the team is planning on resolving for next time.