Photo credit: Jason Dorfman | MIT CSAIL
MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have created M-Block 2.0, or self-assembling modular robots with flywheels inside them that can spin at up to 20,000 rpm. They use the angular momentum generated when braking to propel themselves in a specific direction, enabling them to spin, flip and even stack themselves together.
The M-Blocks 2.0 are designed to be used as a swarm to complete tasks, and they come with magnets embedded in each edge and face so they can snap together. Unique patterns on each face enable them recognize each other. In a demonstration, sixteen M-Blocks were used to accomplish simple tasks, such as forming a line, following arrows marked on other blocks, and moving towards a light source.
The unique thing about our approach is that it’s inexpensive, robust, and potentially easier to scale to a million modules. M-Blocks can move in a general way. Other robotic systems have much more complicated movement mechanisms that require many steps, but our system is more scalable,” said John Romanishin, lead author on the study.