May 21, 2012 at 2:48 PM ET
The robot apocalypse appears to be getting ever closer, especially now that a team of European scientists has designed a machine that can make its own tools.
Tool use is a sign of intelligence that distinguishes humans, chimps, and a few other smart creatures from everything else.
Robots were on the “everything else” list until the team at ETH Zurich outfitted one with a glue gun (technically called hot metal adhesive). It uses the gun to build tools one step at a time, similar to the way a 3-D printer builds stuff one layer at a time.
In the video below, the robot builds a cup and attaches it to itself in order to move water from one dish to the next.
For now, the robot must be programmed to execute its autonomous tool building and a cup isn’t exactly as terrifying as, say, a sharp spear ... or a photon cannon.
But this is a step on the path towards robots that can think for themselves, decide what tools are needed to accomplish their tasks, and build them to get the job done. We'll let you know when it's time to panic.
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.