The future of robots is modular, self-assembling, and kind of scary.
Researchers at MIT are working on M-Blocks, tiny, cube-shaped robots that seem only steps away from recreating scenes from Terminator 2 or Transformers.
The robots, which have no external moving parts, can propel themselves in any direction and can form themselves into stacks to create structures.
The tech beyond the movements is simple, but smart: In every M-Block is a tiny, super-fast flywheel that, when braked, creates angular momentum to move the device in any direction. The robot is then able to cling to others nearby via the series of magnets embedded on each of its sides.
While the M-Block is already pretty impressive, the researchers are already thinking up ways to significantly miniaturize the technology, which should unlock the robot’s real potential. Armies of autonomous M-Blocks could repair bridges, build scaffolding during construction, or even create on-demand hospital beds for hospitals in emergencies.
“We want hundreds of cubes, scattered randomly across the floor, to be able to identify each other, coalesce, and autonomously transform into a chair, or a ladder, or a desk, on demand,” lead researcher John Romanishin told MIT News.