Self-replicating robot assembly system advances toward full autonomy

Wednesday, November 23, 2022 • 11:00 EST

A fully autonomous self-replicating robot assembly system capable of both assembling larger structures, including larger robots, and planning the best construction sequence is still years away, Gershenfeld says. As in previous experiments, the new system involves large, usable structures built from an array of tiny identical subunits called voxels (the volumetric equivalent of a 2-D pixel). An even bigger structure might require yet another such step, with the new larger robots creating yet larger ones, while parts of a structure that include lots of fine detail may require more of the smallest robots. Again, the potential for such structures to instead be assembled by swarms of tiny robots could provide benefits. But the new work makes important strides toward that goal, including working out the complex tasks of when to build more robots and how big to make them, as well as how to organize swarms of bots of different sizes to build a structure efficiently without crashing into each other. … This is the first work I’ve seen that attacks the problem from a radically new perspective — using a raw set of robot parts to build a suite of robots whose sizes are optimized to build the desired structure (and other robots) as fast as possible.” Gershenfeld explains that while the earlier system demonstrated by members of his group could in principle build arbitrarily large structures, as the size of those structures reached a certain point in relation to the size of the assembler robot, the process would become increasingly inefficient because of the ever-longer paths each bot would have to travel to bring each piece to its destination. There are thousands of papers published on route-planning for robots, Gershenfeld says. ( Continue reading.

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