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)
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 IT Conversations
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.
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.
There is currently much discussion around the term "platform," which may be preceded by the adjectives "mobile," "wearable," "medical," "healthcare," etc. However, regardless of the platform being discussed, they usually have one key aspect in common: They tend to be wireless. So, why is this one aspect so fairly universal? The answer is convenience.
Everyone has a MEMS story. For most of us it’s probably the airbag that saved our lives or the life of a loved one. Perhaps it’s the tire pressure sensor that alerted us about deflation before we were stranded alone on a dark muddy road.
Bioimimicry is not merely a helpful design tool -- it also encourages designers to think not only about how to solve design problems by imitating nature, but how to make the products, materials, and systems they design more ecologically sound and nature-friendly.
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