See Real Transformers: MIT’s Self-Assembling Robot Cubes Change Shape Automatically


Self-assembling robots are science fiction no longer.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are building little bots that assemble themselves into cube-shaped modular structures. The cubes can jump, spin, climb, and they’ll eventually take orders from no one.

Can world domination be far behind?

MIT says these adorable automatons are intended for good, such as being able someday to build a temporary bridge to replace one that’s collapsed, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“It’s a very interesting and capable robot, and the more it can do by itself, the less human involvement is needed,” MIT robotics professor Daniela Rus told the paper. “We think these cubes can really be focused on applications that would actually help.”

According to MIT’s description on its viral YouTube entry (watch HERE), the M-Blocks have a flywheel in their innards that spins at 20,000 revolutions per minute. When the flywheel is braked, the momentum moves the cubes in certain directions. Strategically placed magnets help the blocks attach to each other.

Developers are using radio control to impart commands, but the idea is to eventually equip the cubes with algorithms so they can move on their own.

When former student John Romanishin first proposed a design for the modular robots, Rus didn’t think it could be done. But now Rus, Romanishin and postdoc Kyle Gilpin will present a paper on their box bots at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in November.

“It’s one of these things that the [modular-robotics] community has been trying to do for a long time,” Rus said in a written statement.


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