An ambitious new project to reinvent how robots are designed and produced is being funded by a $10-million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

A team of researchers from MIT, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania aims to develop a desktop technology that would make it possible for the average person to design, customize, and print a specialized robot in a matter of hours.

The 5-year project, called “An Expedition in Computing for Compiling Printable Programmable Machines,” is funded as part of the NSF’s “Expeditions in Computing” program.

“This research envisions a whole new way of thinking about the design and manufacturing of robots, and could have a profound impact on society,” said Daniela Rus, leader of the project and a principal investigator at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). “We believe that it has the potential to transform manufacturing and to democratize access to robots.”

Robert Wood, associate professor of electrical engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), will serve as a co-investigator for the project.

“This project aims to dramatically reduce the development time for a variety of useful robots, opening the doors to potential applications in manufacturing, education, personalized healthcare, and even disaster relief,” said Wood.

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