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In a future directed by Michael Bay, that plays out as a semi-truck reconfiguring itself into a bipedal fighting machine halfway through a front-flip. For now, though, the action is a little more modest. In this clip, we see the real state of the art in self-assembling bots: a bunch of little magnetic cubes scuttling around a tabletop. It’s much cooler than it sounds.
M-Blocks are a new breed of self-assembling robot currently in development at MIT. Each cube is about an inch and a half across on each face, with a flywheel on the inside and an array of magnets on the outside. By spinning the flywheel at high speeds–up to 20,000 revolutions per minute–the self-contained units can scoot across tables and flip themselves through the air. Once they come close to another block, a clever system of self-aligning magnets attaches them to their partner. Seeing a single cube clamber on top of another isn’t especially impressive. But watch several move at once, with disparate parts moving independently and the larger whole rapidly taking a totally new form, and you can start to see a hazy path towards Optimus Prime.
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