These are “M-Blocks”, self-transforming robot blocks that can jump, spin, flip and even identify each other using a type of barcode system.
You can watch them in action below.
They represent – say their US developers – a step forward in the quest to develop robots with “a true-hive like mind of coordination”, and their ability to self-assemble into different structures has applications in areas such disaster relief, health care and manufacturing.
They move in a general way, but that is their strength, says John Romanishin from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, lead author of a paper to be presented at next week’s International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in November in Macau.
“The unique thing about our approach is that it’s inexpensive, robust and potentially easier to scale to a million modules,” he says.
There are currently 16 of them. Inside each is a flywheel that moves at 20,000 revolutions per minute, using angular momentum when the flywheel is braked. On each edge and every face are permanent magnets that let any two cubes attach to each other.