“Grey Goo” Will Keep Being Just An Idea For A Foreseeable Future But Siemens Is Making First Steps In Making It Real

Grey Goo is, along with cornucopia machines (molecular assemblers), one of the most popular subjects of sci-fi books dealing with scientific singularity scenarios. Grey Goo is made out of microscopic nano machines able to transform regular matter into a smart one, with the only goal of reproducing itself, making every molecule a part of the grey goo. Aside from its clearly doomsday-scenario use, nano machines could be used for building objects in deep space, preparing, for instance the surface of Mars, for a human expedition. Although we are decades (or even centuries) away from being able to produce nano machines able to reproduce themselves and construct complex objects, there’s something interesting cooking at Siemens, a stepping stone in making robots capable of solving problems, using materials to build objects, and functioning as one through a hive mind.

Siemens Spiders, Or SiSpis as they are called at Siemens, are tiny (well, not so tiny) robots driven by hive-mind and equipped with 3D printers, making them a prototype of future builders, for the time when humans won’t be able to construct objects because of the harsh environments of outer space.


These spider robots are equipped with AI hive mind, making them able to communicate as well to collaborate with each other, for instance when building stuff. This is a new system which Siemens calls “mobile manufacturing.”

The spider robots are developed at Siemens, with Livio Dalloro, head of the Product Design, Modeling and Simulation Research group in the Automation and Control Technology Field at Siemens Corporate Technology, being at the helm of the project. Dalloro explains the project stating that “Its goal was to create a prototype platform for autonomous manufacturing machines that can understand a task, split it up among available robots, and enter into a manufacturing process in a collaborative and coordinated way without explicit programming.”

Robots can make a path of their own by avoiding obstacles and map nearby environment by using a camera and a laser scanner, which are installed on every single robot. The Sispis work together by every one of them being assigned a certain area to build on; then, the robots communicate in order for every one to build on its own area, without any duplicate builders. Since robots work on batteries, if one of them needs to recharge, it will call a fully charged on to take its place before going to a charger. The replacement spider even knows from where to picks up the building, since it is informed about where the previous spider stopped.

The spiders are just the first step in developing a massive smart manufacturing system able to build on their own. As Dalloro states “SiSpis are part of a larger picture that we define as Siemens Agile Manufacturing Systems (SiAMS) and they represent the core of our autonomous systems research here in Princeton.” Aside from Laser scanner and a camera, robots are equipped with 3D printers, limiting their building materials to polylactic acid, at least for now.

The technology is still in its early stages, with a massive scaling potential. As Hasan Sinan Bank, an engineer at Siemens responsible for the idea of making a robot building team says “Once the technology becomes mature, it could be applied to almost anything.” Welcome to the future, where robots can build almost everything, even copies of themselves.

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