M-Block Modular Robots Assemble Themselves
M-Blocks are small, self-contained robotic cubes that can configure themselves in a variety of shapes. They can even move as a group if necessary. M-Blocks are the creation of MIT senior John Romanishin.
(M-Blocks Modular Robot video)
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...
To compensate for its static instability, the researchers’ robot relies on some ingenious engineering. On each edge of a cube are two cylindrical magnets, mounted like rolling pins. When two cubes approach each other, the magnets naturally rotate, so that north poles align with south, and vice versa. Any face of any cube can thus attach to any face of any other.
The cubes’ edges are also beveled, so when two cubes are face to face, there’s a slight gap between their magnets. When one cube begins to flip on top of another, the bevels, and thus the magnets, touch. The connection between the cubes becomes much stronger, anchoring the pivot. On each face of a cube are four more pairs of smaller magnets, arranged symmetrically, which help snap a moving cube into place when it lands on top of another.
As with any modular-robot system, the hope is that the modules can be miniaturized: the ultimate aim of most such research is hordes of swarming microbots that can self-assemble, like the “liquid steel” androids in the movie “Terminator II.” And the simplicity of the cubes’ design makes miniaturization promising.
Although Philip K. Dick fans are rightly thinking about the autofac from his 1955 short story of the same name, or even the nanomachine swarm from Stanislaw Lem's excellent 1954 novel The Invincible, I have an older and perhaps more exact science fictional prediction of this idea.
In his amazing 1920 short story The Metal Monster, Abraham Merritt imagines a robot that is constructed of smaller metal pieces able to move on their own.
Faster the cubes moved; faster the circle revolved; the pyramids raised themselves, stood bolt upright on their square bases; the six rolling spheres touched them, joined the spinning, and with sleight-of-hand suddenness the ring drew together; its units coalesced, cubes and pyramids and globes threading with a curious suggestion of ferment.
With the same startling abruptness there stood erect, where but a moment before they had seethed, a little figure, grotesque; a weirdly humorous, a vaguely terrifying foot-high shape, squared and angled and pointed and ANIMATE—as though a child should build from nursery blocks a fantastic shape which abruptly is filled with throbbing life.
Again the sibilant rustling—and cubes and pyramids and spheres were gone.
"Goodwin!" he whispered. "What—what were they?"
"Metal," I said—it was the only word to which my whirling mind could cling—"metal—"
"Metal!" he echoed. "These things metal? Metal—ALIVE AND THINKING!"
(Read more about Abraham Merritt's living metal cubes)
From Popular Science.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/14/2014)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
X125 Snake-Arm Inspection Robot Video
'... long, flexible, glittering tentacles...' - HG Wells, 1898.
FORTIS Exoskeleton Not Quite Ripley's Alien-Fighting Exoskeleton
'Earth's scientists solved the problem to some extent by devising rigid metallic clothing...' - Edmond Hamilton, 1932.
Kirobo Mini - Your Dashboard Droid
No protocol droid needed for translation!
3D Printed Soft Robotic Tentacle May Grab You
'Monique's tissues had at least three other basic attractor modes as well...' - Rudy Rucker, 1997.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Solowheel Xtreme Heinlein Tumblebug Video
'The cadets 'stood to horse' alongside their poised tumblebugs...'
Algorithm Predicts Marriage Success (HAL 9000 Will See You Now)
'I can tell from your voice harmonics, Dave, that you're badly upset....'
Denmark Island Earth (Verdenskortet ala Ringworld)
'They wanted to keep something of what they were losing...'
Humai Startup To Implant Your Brain In Robot Body
'The astounded onlookers saw a human brain snugly encased in a transparent skull-shaped receptacle.'
Blue Origin Reusable Rocket's Vertical Landing
We're getting there, one launch at a time.
X125 Snake-Arm Inspection Robot Video
'... long, flexible, glittering tentacles...'
Super-Thin Smart Glazing Displays
'...a wide sheet of clear material suddenly flared with light and swirling color.'
Have Scientists Found A Parallel Universe Leaking Into Ours
'Ellis had found a weak point, a shimmer, at which another continuum completely had been visible.'
Active Wellness Smart Car Seat
'Maybe the car was right...'
Tech Tats Prototype Sfnal Devices
'...Permanently fixed in the centre of his forehead.'
ANNABELL AI Can Learn English From Scratch
'...Could understand not only classic programming but also Loglan and English..."
Tesla Suit Gives Haptic Hugs
'Then a pressure on the lips...'
Surgically Implantable Artificial Kidney Starts Testing
'George Walt... proved the workability of wholly mechanical organs...'
Self-Filling Water Bottle Is Beetle-Based
'That moisture trickles down...'
Senate Passes Space Mining Legislation
'The law of filing on newly discovered asteroids was definite...'
Microsoft's Surface Book Is Part Clipboard
'Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man's quest for perfect communications...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories