The folks at MIT's Media Lab are teaching a robotic arm to spin material into webs, just like a spider would. Why? It's either so robot armies could easily cocoon captured humans a few years from now, or maybe so robots could spin flexible structures that could be attached to existing buildings. Why would we want that? Keep reading.
Speaking to Nick Barber of IDG News, Elizabeth Tsai, a research assistant at the Mediated Matter Group (part of Media Lab), likened the technique to 3D printing, which continually layers material atop other material until something is formed. Here, the end goal is for the robots to be able to perform was Tsai terms an "additive manufacturing process," one that "looks at your surroundings and can weave around these objects, sort of like a spider."
Tsai doesn't really give a concrete sense of what this could achieve. Our first thought: hammocks on demand. I suppose the arm would also be able to construct scaffolds for construction, cocoon-like rooms and so on, too. You can check it out in the video below.