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article imageRobotic cubes built at MIT assemble themselves

By Andrew Ellis     Oct 6, 2013 in Technology
Cambridge - As each year passes, the advanced technology we see in our favorite science fiction movies comes closer to becoming reality. MIT just added to that list.
According to CNET, roboticists at MIT (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology) unveiled a new type of robot called M-Blocks, which they said are similar to the liquid metal androids seen in the "Terminator" movies.
The M-Blocks, which was an idea first put forth by MIT roboticist John Romanishin, can assemble themselves, spin, and somersault, according to The Los Angeles Times. They can also connect together thanks to magnets on the edges that can grip onto the other cubes to create any kind of shape the job in question requires, according to The Los Angeles Times.
"I just had the idea for a really long time," Romanishin said, according to The Los Angeles Times. "The idea has been in a lot of people's minds from movies like Terminator and other popular culture references.”
According to BBC News, the robots have no external parts but can move thanks to an interior flywheel mechanism with commands sent via a radio signal. MIT roboticist Kyle Gilpin said that the interior flywheel can spin at an astonishing 20,000 revolutions per second, and then grind to a complete halt in 10 milliseconds, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The M-Blocks are essentially "two-inch blocks of aluminum hollowed out to make the boxy frame, filled with the motor brains," and then a 3D printer at the lab prints on the colorful plates, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The Los Angeles Times also reported that the colorful plates serve a purpose as well. MIT robotics professor Daniela Rus said that the different colors are useful when debugging because they can pinpoint which ones they want to test.
MIT's research team at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory want the cubes to be able to work together to make temporary repairs on bridges and building, among other things, according to BBC News. They also hope to be able to eventually program commands directly into the the cubes making them "entirely autonomous."
According to The Los Angeles Times, Rus said:
β€œIt's a very interesting and capable robot, and the more it can do by itself, the less human involvement is needed. We think these cubes can really be focused on applications that would actually help.”
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