The first sure sign of a robot uprising will be when robots gain self-awareness and begin acting autonomously – and if this self-assembling robot is any indication, we’re well on our way to the robopocalypse. Researchers at Harvard and MIT teamed up to produce a 3D-printed inchworm robot that is able to aseemble itself. Using shape memory polymers that automatically fold into desired shapes, the remarkable bot transforms itself from a completely flat, two-dimensional object into a walking inchworm-shaped robot with almost no help from human hands.

The goal of the project is to create robots that can be produced quickly and as cheaply as possible. “Currently the goal is to just make a more complicated robot, and one that can fold itself and then walk away,” explains Harvard grad student Sam Felton in a YouTube interview that was filmed this week at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Germany. The inchworm robot uses shape memory polymers to fold along specific hinges; the only human input needed is to attach the battery and motor.

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The final step needed to make the robots entirely self-replicating would be to design them so that they can add the battery and motor themselves. Felton says that the next generation of robots will have come with pre-assembled batteries and motors, enabling the robot to assemble itself and walk without any human intervention. As Felton explains in the interview, a simple pick and place robot could be tasked with installing the battery and motor.

Via IEEE Spectrum and IEEE Spectrum and Gizmodo