Even though most buildings are designed using the latest digital tools, actual construction is stuck in the past; building is messy, slow, and inefficient. 3-D printing might change that, but recent projects like these printed houses in China demonstrate one of the technical challenges—the equipment itself has to be gigantic, because it can’t work unless it’s bigger than the building itself.
A team of researchers from Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia are working on another solution: A swarm of tiny robots that could cover the construction site of the future, quickly and cheaply building greener buildings of any size.
Robonaut, installed on the International Space Station to perform chores for astronauts, just got its first pair of real legs.
NASA says that the new seven-jointed legs are designed for climbing in zero gravity and offer a considerable nine-foot leg span. Instead of feet, the legs feature “end effectors” designed to grapple onto handrails and sockets located both inside the space station and, eventually, on the ISS’s exterior. Robonaut’s end effectors have a built-in vision system—almost like a pair of eyes—that are designed to eventually automate each limb’s approaching and grasping.
Knocking down a concrete building usually takes brute force: Wrecking balls, huge excavators, or explosives rip apart walls while fire hoses spray water to keep the clouds of dust down. It’s an energy-intensive process, and after everything’s been torn apart, the concrete often ends up in a landfill or has to be trucked to a recycling facility. But a new concrete-erasing robot may eventually transform the messy business of demolition.
As it bounces through the Australian outback, the typical kangaroo can cover around 25 to 30 feet per hop. It’s a model of efficiency: Every time the kangaroo hits the ground, its tendons stretch to store energy like the spring in a pogo stick, so it can easily speed up without getting tired. It’s so good at hopping, in fact, that for the last two years, a German company called Festo has been secretly developing a robot that tries to copy everything a natural kangaroo can do.