Robot dog progress

Researchers publish open-source, lower cost design for 3D printed robot dog.

What are the future applications of of such a “dog”? Some rather unconvincing tasks are mentioned in the above report, like hanging about in a forest “monitoring” animals. But that sounds like green-friendly make-work to me.

Warfare in complicated terrain does seem like an obvious application. Exploring Mars, in other words, and then fighting other robots for the control of Mars. And meanwhile filming it all, for entertainment purposes?

Airplanes flew for quite a long time before they found a major use for them, which was to spy on opposing armies and to make big guns cleverer, and then to fight and kill other airplanes. Then came high tech sport, in the form of air races, which was really just research and development for better and faster war planes.

Around then, also, very tentatively, airplanes began to deliver letters. And then, airplanes began to deliver people, which was to say very rich people. Eventually, half a century after they first flew, airplanes became part of the good life for regular humans.

Robot dogs look like they might follow a similar path. As of now, robot dogs are the robot equivalent of the useless and clumsy contraptions that airplanes were in the nineteen-noughts, good only for lunatics in goggles to play with.

Comments of how these weird creatures might actually make themselves useful, more quickly and less destructively than my grumpy pessimism just said, would be most welcome.

For starters, if these things are ever going to be liked by humans, they’re going to need heads, heads that are more than merely decorative which gather and transmit information. Then, maybe (and I seem to recall speculating along these lines at my long-lost Education Blog): child minding? A combination of such robot-human interaction and transport? Like a sort of super-intelligent horse?

3D printing isn’t the only game in town

Incoming from Rob:

Hi Brian,

I saw this and thought of you:
https://www.xometry.com/

3D printing isn’t the only game in town. This web site seems to make it easier to get access to milling machines. Upload your CAD file and get an instant quote. I’m not sure how expensive it is for one-off jobs but I can imagine it getting cheaper and easier over time.

“This” being a network of enterprises which, between them, can offer: CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, plastic 3D printing, metal 3D printing, urethane casting, and injection molding.

The point being that additive manufacturing, aka 3D printing, is not the only way to make something. There’s also all these other ways, such as CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining, that being subtractive manufacturing.

3D printing is not “disruptive”. It is an addition to the repertoire of traditional manufacturers. It offers manufacturers another way to do some of the things they already do, and a few other things they don’t now do.

Anyone can 3D print just about anything, just about anywhere. But just because you can, that doesn’t mean it makes a blind bit of sense for you to actually do this. What if someone else can do it, far better, far cheaper, in some other place, some other way, maybe in a much more trad, tried-and-tested way?

This website puts you in touch with who all those other people might be. As Rob says, It makes manufacturing that little bit easier and quicker to arrange, and over time, ever more so.