Self assembling robots

Maybe you remember the T-1000 from the movie Terminator 2: judgment day. Since this terminator made of liquid metal, it was able to take the shape and appearance of anyone or anything it comes in contact with. The same concept of liquid metal was also used in the terminator model T-X from the movie Terminator 3: Rise of the machines. Maybe you remember the scenes when the T-1000 received bullets and then it reshaped to its original, or when it is part of the floor and then shapes to the terminator, or when the T-X reshapes her bubbies. The idea of a robot that automatically reshapes to any shape was great, but seemed impossible.
Image 1. Terminator T-1000 (lefts) and terminator T-X (right)
Image sources: sideshowtoymovieleatherjacket

Recently, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) from the MIT gave an important step for such goal. However, they are not using any metal liquid. They developed the so called M-block

The M-Block

The M-Blocks are cubes with no external moving parts. Nonetheless, they’re able to climb over and around one another, leap through the air, roll across the ground, and even move while suspended upside down from metallic surfaces.  

Inside each M-Block is a flywheel that can reach speeds of 20,000 revolutions per minute; when the flywheel is braked, it imparts its angular momentum to the cube. On each edge of an M-Block, and on every face, are cleverly arranged permanent magnets that allow any two cubes to attach to each other. Thus, the M-Blocks may be arranged in any shape

Currently the M-Blocks receive commands via a radio signal. Future research will deal with automating such task. The commands and algorithms will be loaded into each M-Block, so that several hundreds of M-Blocks scattered randomly across the floor will be to identify each other, coalesce, and autonomously transform into a chair, or a ladder, or a desk, or any other shape. The following video shows the M-Blocks and an explanation from the developers.

In this video you can see a more detailed explanation

References & further reading
Surprisingly simple scheme for self-assembling robots
Terminator self-assembling cube robots revealed  by MIT

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