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Robot Pebbles Duplicate 3D Shapes
7/24/2012

Tiny robotic cubes self-assemble to duplicate an object that is placed in a heap of the cubes. Possible applications include rapid prototyping and replacing parts or objects. (Source: M. Scott Brauer/MIT)
Tiny robotic cubes self-assemble to duplicate an object that is placed in a heap of the cubes. Possible applications include rapid prototyping and replacing parts or objects.
(Source: M. Scott Brauer/MIT)

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Peratflexibilityenvelopecom
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Iron
Check out the Flexible Elements podcast with Kyle Gilpin on the Robot pebble and Electropermanent Magnets.
Peratflexibilityenvelopecom   7/24/2012 11:19:06 AM
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I interviewed Kyle Gilpin at ICRA 2010 about his work with the robot pebble, which is the "grain" in the "smart sand"
This interview is part of the Flexible Elements podcast series, focusing on Self-reconfiguring modular robotics, at
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Charles Murray
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Applications
Charles Murray   7/24/2012 6:05:57 PM
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Ann, have they discussed how these pebbles might be used to aid a rapid prototyping process?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Applications
Ann R. Thryft   7/25/2012 11:51:02 AM
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Chuck, I didn't see any references to rapid prototyping for this technology, but researchers working on other self-assembly methods do have that in mind as a potential app.

Greg M. Jung
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Mechatronic Evolution
Greg M. Jung   7/31/2012 9:27:37 PM
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Interesting idea which reminds me of the natural evolution of primitive single cell organisms into more complex mult-cellular organisms (which evolve into even higher and higher complex organisms as time goes on).  Each robotic pebble reminds me of a cell, so I'm wonder if more complex robotic mechanisms can be made from larger and larger groups of multi-pebbled clusters.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Mechatronic Evolution
Ann R. Thryft   8/1/2012 12:07:39 PM
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Greg, I had a similar initial idea about the analogy with cellular structures. Reading the wiki page and other background info in depth made it clear that there are current limits to the number of neighbor cubes that can attach. At least some of that limitation seems to be due to hardware, such as space limitations causing magnets on 4 not 6 sides, and, as we state in the article, the current upper limit is 80 neighbors per cube. Once they move to the smaller 1mm size on a wafer, that number is expected to rise to 100s or 1000s.

Greg M. Jung
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Platinum
Re: Mechatronic Evolution
Greg M. Jung   8/1/2012 12:41:44 PM
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Ann, did the researchers have ideas for new applications as the number of neighbors increased?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Mechatronic Evolution
Ann R. Thryft   8/1/2012 12:59:20 PM
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I don't recall seeing any mentions of new apps once the numbers got that high, but the wiki page may have more info now than when I wrote the story. Let us know if you find out something.

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