Robot blocks magically turn themselves into absolutely anything

Credit: MIT

Not all cubes are created equal. Not all robots are either, as it turns out. The proof is in the buildings at MIT, where a number of colorful blocks called M-blocks are busy reconfiguring themselves into whatever arrangement they want. You can be used to create modular robots that are essentially indestructible, and if you think this sounds a bit too much like Terminator, that’s because IT’S EXACTLY TERMINATOR.

Each block has a flywheel inside it, which can move at 20,000 revolutions per minute but can also stop within 10 milliseconds. When that stop occurs, the angular momentum causes the cube to flip. Magnets on the sides of each cube let them stick to each other, and by moving cubes around, it's possible to create all kinds of different shapes. The cubes are powerful enough that they have lots of different ways to get around, too: "a low amount of energy will cause it just to roll forward, an intermediate amount of energy might cause it to climb a wall and the highest amount of energy will cause it to do something like jump," says MIT roboticist Kyle Gilpin.

So what can these M-Blocks actually do? Well, not all that much at the moment, aside from arrange themselves into cool patterns and such. But the future could hold great applications for such a product. They could help build temporary bridges and structures, and they could move themselves over hard-to-navigate terrain. And as the cubes get smaller and more capable, they definitely won't form themselves into a killer robot that goes back in time and destroys all humans.

Awesome video below.

MIT, via LA Times

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