MIT’s Researchers Shows Off M-Blocks – The Building Blocks of the Future
Think of a robot that can change its shape, according to environment conditions & requirements. It may become a thin worm to pass through a narrow pipe or turn itself in the shape of ball or wheel that can spin over a flat surface or can split itself in small cubes. The Researchers of MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) had developed these kind of Robots and these small cube shaped robots that can flip, jump & merge themselves together in different shapes are known as M-Blocks. These robots can perform different tasks according to environmental factors. It is different and exciting because till now all the robots that are designed has fixed architecture & can perform single task, they are failed while performing the other tasks in different environments. Their objective is to design a self reconfiguring & self assembling robots that can change their geometry according to tasks, Like a Self Assembling “Liquid Steel” Android in the movie ‘Terminator II’.
Each cube contains small motor inside it, Which uses angular momentum from their flywheels to move, when wheel stops, it transfers its energy to rest of its cube. These flywheels can rotate speed of 20,000 revolutions per minute. It has no external moving parts, but still these cubes can climb, rotate and move around one another. There medium is air or they can move and jump across the metallic surface and over each other without even legs, wheels & arms. They moved on the bases of internal flywheel mechanism & can merge together using magnets. These cubes can move independently and also as a part of group.
Each edge of the cube has two cylindrical magnets, mounted like rolling pins. When two cubes approach each other for the movement. As the magnets are rotates naturally, it automatically align the North with South and South with North. As a result any face of any cube attached with other face of the any other cube. Face of the every cube is also mounted with four more pairs of smaller magnets, to make the strong connection between the cubes. These magnets are arranged symmetrically, which helps a cube to move from one place to another.
The researcher team works on building an army of 100 cubes, each of which can move independently in any directions. They are designing algorithms to guide the flow of the cubes. They are also working on some special cubes that can perform some of the special tasks like, carry the equipments like camera, batter or lights. Army of the mobile cubes can repair the bridges & buildings during emergencies, although it is temporary, but still it is useful. They can also raise or reconfigure scaffolding for building projects.
John Romanishin, one of the research scientists, said: ‘We want hundreds of cubes, scattered randomly across the floor, to be able to identify each other, coalesce, and autonomously transform into a chair, or a ladder, or a desk, on demand.’ But still reactions are so far that they want to achieve.
- If they drop bulk quantity of blocks in the ocean it assembles itself in small boat.
- If they drop them on desert they assemble themselves as a hut for shelter.
- If they drop them on broken dam, they assemble themselves to plug the dam
- It can assemble itself as a wall, bridge or shelter during a climatic or emergency situation.
- It can also be converted into chair, desk and ladder, but it depends upon the requirement.