MIT researchers first showed off its self-assembling “M-Block” robot cubes in 2013 — and this week, they shared a video of what they’re calling M-Blocks 2.0 (via TechCrunch). Like the first version of the blocks, M-Blocks 2.0 move by generating momentum with an internal flywheel, and can climb on and around each other using magnets:
But these new blocks also have a “barcode-like” system on each block face that they can “read” to do things like follow a specific path:
And they can also act with a hive mind to find each other and cluster together:
Though this might seem terrifying, there are more benevolent expectations for the blocks right now. MIT News reports that the researchers envision them being used in industries like inspection, gaming, manufacturing, health care, and even disaster response. Here’s what MIT News says a disaster response scenario could look like:
Imagine a burning building where a staircase has disappeared. 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.
This would be... kind of incredible? I really hope that these tiny little blocks will actually be able to do that someday.