Note: I know that picture looks boring as hell but if you skip around in the video it is actually kind of neat to see the cubes move around and connect.
First WildCat the running robotic predator, and now MIT's M-Block swarmbots, a bunch of cube-shaped robots that are "self-assembling like the 'liquid steel' androids in the Terminator films." Of course they're not really that terrifying yet, but the media is more than happy to use a Terminator reference every chance they get. Hey boss -- there's a new robot that can paint portraits. "Call it Terminardo da Vinci and run with it."
More realistically, the researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), believe armies of such cubes could be used for making temporary repairs to bridges or buildings, or as self-assembly, re-configurable scaffolding.
John Romanishin, one of the research scientists at CSAIL leading the project, 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."
The M-Blocks are currently controlled by computer instructions sent over wireless radio, but in future the researchers hope algorithms can be loaded on the blocks directly, making them entirely autonomous and capable of adapting to different environments.
Admittedly, it would be pretty cool to have a chair that could turn into a desk that could turn into a ladder. Then you would really only need to buy one piece of robotic furniture for the entire house. Robot -- transform from couch to bed, it's time to sleep. *robot transforms into gun* Well, I should have known better. *BANG*
Keep going for a video of the scientists talking about the thing but just skip around until you see the little blocks moving themselves around.
Thanks to Len, jimmmy, Dickeysaurus, Andy and Jeremy Jello, who agree the only good swarmbots are swarming into volcanoes.