A hand-held router that uses machine vision and GPS to guide its cutting path is getting closer to market. A product of Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad student research, the first version was presented in a Siggraph 2012 paper by Alec Rivers, Ilan E. Moyer and Fredo Durand. After further development, the router was dubbed, "Taktia."

Now moving into the world of venture capital funding with some backing by Roo Venture Capital, the router has been redesigned by a former Google product developer, reports Popular Science, and renamed, Shaper. The tool is being developed by www.ShaperTools.com

In 2012, Rivers, a PhD student in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), learned about woodworking when he attempted to build a simple picture frame using woodworking equipment he had inherited from his grandfather. Despite measuring and aligning his tools as best he could by hand, Rivers found that he could not produce shapes with enough precision to make them all fit together.

“I was getting incredibly frustrated, because just as with any home project I would cut things out and they would look about right, but none of the pieces would line up,” Rivers says.

From left to right: Ilan E. Moyer, Alec Rivers, Frédo Durand with the prototype for Taktia, now redesigned as Shaper.

Rivers decided there had to be a better wa, and being an MIT student, he engineered one with colleagues Frédo Durand, an EECS associate professor and member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and Ilan Moyer, a graduate student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The trio began developing a new kind of woodworking router — a drill-like cutting tool — that could automatically cut out accurate shapes from a piece of material by following a digital design. The result is a handheld device that can adjust its position to precisely follow a digital plan when the user moves the router roughly around the shape to be cut.

On completion of the project, the group delivered a paper on a hand-held computer-controlled router was presented at the Siggraph 2012 research conference. Entitled Position-Correcting Tools for 2D Digital Fabrication, by Alec Rivers, Ilan E. Moyer and Fredo Durand, the paper described, in rough terms, a held-held router taht could be palced in a chise and then be guided by a machine vision system over the landscape of a board being cut.  http://groups.csail.mit.edu/graphics/positioncorrectingtools/ 

Work has continued on the router.  The original site for Taktia leads to www.ShaperTools.com where you can get on a mailing list to stay informed about a forthcoming commercial version of the position-correcting router.

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