MIT's Self-Assembling Robots Bring Us One Step Closer to Real-World Transformers [VIDEO]
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have constructed cube-shaped modular bots, M-Blocks robots, which can move, jump, crawl all over each, and self-assemble -- even though they have no external moving parts.
MIT has been on the technological forefront for ages -- they provided the public the World Wide Web, the disposable razor, the transistor radio, clean drinking water and, now, alphabet block-size self-configuring robots that can collaboratively manage whatever shape is needed, using an internal spinning mass.
John Romanishin proposed the idea for the modular robot design to his professor, Daniela Rus, in 2011. Her response was that it couldn't be done. Now, just two years later, he's managed to construct the M-Blocks, using external edge and base magets and an internal flywheel that can reach 20,000 revolutions per minute. The flywheel, in collaboration with the advanced magnetics system, motivates the movement of the blocks, from one to another, and ensures that they reattach once they've completed that movement.
Romanishin simplified a self-assembly algorithm that is normally used to motorize more complex devices. The M-Block bot are a scaled down version of a previous robot called, the Molecule, which had 18 separate motors and two squares connected by an angular bar.
The next step for the MIT scientists is to miniaturize the squares, so that they might become microbots.
"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," Romanishin says.
BBC has stated that MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) are constantly thinking of ways that their self-assembling cubes might be used in the world, possibilities including reinforcing bridges, scaffolding and using them to enter unsafe environments. And, scientists hope that the cube's limits can be pushed further, where they are able to act autonomously, and react to situations independently.