May 27, 2018

Self-assembling robotic cubes

M-Blocks are simple cubic robots that propel themselves through space without any conspicuous moving parts. Developed by scientists at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, M-Blocks can push, spin, or roll across a surface. They can climb one another to make three-dimensional structures and even jump from one position to another.

M-Blocks’ seemingly magical capabilities are enabled by cleverly hidden mechanics. Each cube includes an internal flywheel that creates angular momentum when it brakes, as well as a battery for power and a radio for communication. The modules use a combination of surface magnets and edge magnets to join precisely with their neighbors, and can form elaborate lattice-like structures collectively.

Although commands are now sent remotely, the researchers’ goal is to impart the modules themselves with mobility intelligence so that they can make autonomous decisions based on environmental conditions. The animate cubes could repair structures, self-construct scaffolding, or mobilize within zones that are unsafe for humans.

Contact: Massachusetts Institute of Technology CSAIL, Cambridge, MA, USA.

For more information, see Transmaterial Next: A Catalog of Materials that Redefine Our Future

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