MIT's web-spinning robot: Be very afraid?

MIT's Media Lab is working on a robot that may one day spin its own webs and cocoons. A boon for manufacturing? Or: "Welcome to my web," said the robot to the human.

Let's hope that guy in the background doesn't stray too close. Bwahahahahahahaaaaa! Screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET

Humanity seems hell bent on creating machines that will one day rise up and have no problem whatsoever hunting us all down.

If it's not some researcher conducting experiments in how robots can evolve behaviors such as cooperation and hunting (gulp), it's some misguided engineer developing spiderlike 'bots that will one day surely have no trouble outrunning humble little bipeds like ourselves.

And now we have a robot that can spin a web or a cocoon.

As Nick Barber of IDG News reports, the Mediated Matter Group at MIT's Media Lab is working on a robot it hopes will one day be able to scan its surroundings and weave a structure that's attached to elements in the environment. The machine isn't able to do this just yet, but as you'll see in Barber's video below, it can be preprogrammed to weave a pretty mean web using pegs and hooks that it's been told the positions of.

The researchers, who also study 3D printing, drop phrases like "additive manufacturing processes" and say that eventually they'll replace the yarn shown in the video with nylon that will harden once it's put in place. One can imagine manufacturing or construction methods that involve a machine that works with a given physical framework to create custom designs.

"We're working on the sensing so it knows where it's going on its own," Research Assistant Elizabeth Tsai says in a short article by Barber.

Well, that'll no doubt be splendid when it comes to cutting-edge manufacturing. Still, we're not exactly sure how we feel about the goal. Robots that can learn to hunt? Robots that move like spiders? Robots that can autonomously spin webs? We'll leave it to the overactive imaginations of our more paranoid readers to put all these pieces together and conjure up a vision of any potentially nightmarish results.

 

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