These Robotic Cubes Can Jump, Flip, and Recognize Each Other

MIT researchers created cubes that could someday aid in healthcare, disaster response, and more.

Robotic cubes that can self-assemble and interact with each other could help advance how people respond to disasters and push other technologies forward.

Created by MIT’s Computer Science and AI Laboratory (CSAIL), they’re called “M-Cubes,” with the “M” standing for “motion, magnet, and magic.” These magnetic cubes can roll across the ground, assemble onto each other, and even jump short distances.

The M-Blocks interacting with each other is a big step for the future of AI, where other robotic systems were unable to do so. The hope for the cubes is to one day be used for gaming, manufacturing, health care, and even disaster response.

“In the future, you can envision simply throwing M-Blocks on the ground, and watching them build out a temporary staircase for climbing up to the roof, or down to the basement to rescue victims,” MIT writes in a press release.

The first iteration of M-Blocks was introduced in 2013, but researchers have since expanded the capabilities of these small cubes by equipping each face with a barcode-like system. This allows the M-Blocks to identify and coordinate with each other.

So far, the M-Blocks can form a line, follow arrows, and track light. Researchers say the blocks are more “scalable” than other robotic systems because M-Blocks are simpler and less expensive.