What's the Latest Development?
Engineers at MIT have programmed small magnetic cubes to assume the shape of other objects, allowing machines to essentially replicate themselves with minimal human interaction. When a solid object is placed among a group of the little cubes, each cube magnetically senses whether it is touching another cube or the border of a foreign object. The cubes then communicate with each other to form the shape of the foreign object, filling in the space inside the border to create an identical object. Because of the cubes' limited size and processing power, the researchers are currently working with 2D objects.
What's the Big Idea?
Eventually, engineers want to scale the cubes down to the size of sand grains, enabling the precise replication of 3D objects. Practical applications of the technology, however, will not have to wait that long. To repair a broken fan belt, for example, the owner could tape the split ends together and place the belt into a box containing the robotic cubes. The cubes would imitate the form and serve as a belt until the owner reached an auto parts store. Afterwards, the cubes could be deconstructed and used to duplicate another shape when the need arises. Follow the jump for a video that shows the cubes at work!
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