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Printable Robots: MIT Project Wants to Let You Design and Fabricate Your Own Machines

mit printable origami insect robot
An insect-like robot designed and printed using new fabrication techniques developed by MIT researchers. Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL/MIT

Who knew that origami could be the future of robotics?

Today, if you want to design and build your own robot, you have to order components, write software, and then assemble and test your creation. Of course, the more sophisticated your robot gets, the more time and money you have to spend on it.

Now imagine if you could use a computer program to specify the overall capabilities and appearance of your robot and, with the push of a button, have the robot fabricated by a special printer right in your living room. That's a futuristic scenario that a new MIT project wants to turn into reality.

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Problems With Your Robot? You Need the Reset It! App

Problems with your robot? We've all been there. You've probably tried turning it off and on again, but that's so binary. New for 2012, we're incredibly excited to introduce you to Reset It!™ All your robot problems are now solved. All of them.

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Video Friday: Warm Robot Hand, Rugged RHex, and ROBO-ONE

It's been a good week for robot videos -- with Hume and Sand Flea and all -- but that certainly doesn't mean that we don't have some good stuff left over for you today. Japanese researchers have a friendly and warm robot hand they'd like you to shake, Boston Dynamics is out to impress with a new extra-rugged version of the RHex robot, and the ROBO-ONE results are in with robot-on-robot fighting action and a rather hilariously inept footrace.

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RoboBonobo: Giving Apes Control of Their Own Robot

This is RoboBonobo. It's a robotic ape. It's got a water cannon on it, and it'll eventually be able to chase you around under the direct control of real bonobos wielding wireless keyboards and iPads. In other words, no human is safe. Anywhere. Ever.

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Warehouse Robots Get Smarter With Ant Intelligence

Amazon may have just gotten its claws into Kiva Systems, but there's more than one company out there looking to automate warehouses with smart little robots. At the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics, researchers are looking for ways to make warehouse robots smarter and more efficient by getting them to communicate and cooperate like a swarm of ants.

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Video Friday: PackBots on Steroids, RoboJellies on Hydrogen, and Rodney Brooks on Industry

The world, whether or not it needs robotic jellyfish, now has two robojellies to choose from. It's the future, people. And there's more future to be had where that came from, since we'll also show you some new wheels for PackBots, a new way to control robots with augmented reality, and Rodney Brooks will tell you what's going on with the future of the robotics industry.

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iRobot and Willow Garage Debate Closed vs. Open Source Robotics at Cocktail Party

In this guest post, Frank Tobe, a robotics analyst and publisher of The Robot Report, describes a recent debate between two prominent robotics executives and their opposing views on how to nurture profitable robotics businesses.

iRobot Colin Angle, Willow Garage Bob Bauer
Left: Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of iRobot, in Bedford, Mass. Right: Robert Bauer, executive director for commercialization at Willow Garage in Menlo Park, Calif.

What's the best approach to building commercially successful robotics companies: To develop specific, proprietary products that satisfy the needs of large markets, or to develop and share free, open-source technologies and wait for the commercial applications to emerge?

These two points of view were presented by executives from iRobot and Willow Garage in a spirited cocktail party debate the other evening in Lyon, France, at InnoRobo 2012, a trade show for service robotics. Here's how it happened, who they were, and what they said.

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