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From wire to finished product in less than 13 minutes: a new robot-builder is faster than most takeaways. It works by bending wire that already has motors attached into different shapes, using a process its designers call 1D printing. Once the robot has performed its job, it can simply be flattened and fed back into the system to be recycled into a new type of robot. “The idea is that you analyse the current situation, then make a robot on the fly that can deal with it,” says Sebastian Risi at the IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark, a member of the team that came up with the system. If you need a robot that can fit through a small space or around an odd-shaped corner, you input those constraints into the software and it will deliver something suitable. The system uses evolutionary algorithms that improve their designs bit by bit until they reach one that satisfies all the constraints. This means that the system doesn’t have to come up with the best design on its first attempt, but can keep evolving the design until it works.”

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