The Small robot cubes that self-assemble developed at MIT, known as M-Blocks, have no external moving parts. They’re able to climb over and around one another, leap through the air, roll across the ground.
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.
“It’s one of these things that the [modular-robotics] community has been trying to do for a long time,” says Rus, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of CSAIL. “We just needed a creative insight and somebody who was passionate enough to keep coming at it — despite being discouraged.”
Image © M. Scott Brauer