A three-week old robot at the MIT Media Lab is weaving a cocoon-like structure with a little programming help from humans. Eventually it will be autonomous.

It's like a robotic spider, weaving a web of art on its own based on its surroundings. It's a 3-week old project created by the Mediated Matter group at the MIT Media Lab. The group also researches 3D printer, but this project is different.

So instead of--usually with 3D printing you see sort of layered manufacturing where you deposit one layer of material followed by another. So here we're using tensile elements instead so think strings, thing ropes and think elastic bands for example. So we're looking at how can you make a manufacturing process that looks at your surroundings and say we have these branches here or these pegs here and they can weave around these objects. So sort of like a spider, sort of like a silk worm to create your own structure out of your surroundings.

Insiried by silkworm cocoons, the bot is using a yarn like material here, but researchers plan to switch that out with special nylon that can stretch when wet and turns brittle when it dries.

Right now the bot knows the positions of all of the hooks and pegs that surround it and it's crafting a design that was preprogrammed, but eventually the researchers want to make the robot autonomous. That means it would be able to sense where the pegs and hooks are and make a custom design on its own.

This method of construction offers an option to build a space within structural and environmental requirements, much like silkworms do.