MIT’s self-propelled block robots can now manage basic swarm coordination

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has come up with a clever way for its small cube-like robots, which can move on their own, to communicate and coordinate with one another for self-assembly. The behavior is described by MIT researchers as somewhat “hive-like;” in the video above you can see what they mean by that.

These cube bots can roll across the ground, navigate up and across each other and even jump short distances. And thanks to recent improvements made by the team working on the project, they also can communicate in a basic way using unique barcode identifiers on the faces of the blocks to allow them to identify one another. These 16 blocks can now use their communication system and their ability to move themselves around to perform tasks including producing various shapes, or even following arrows or light signals.

Their current abilities are pretty limited, but the researchers envision a time when a larger and more advanced version of this system could be used to deploy efficiently self-assembling bots that can create structures like bridges, ramps or even staircases for use in disaster response or rescue scenarios. Of course, they also theorize these things might be pretty attractive for more mundane applications, like gaming, too.

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