I must say before I start talking on the real agenda, hats off to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that is contributing heavily in the research and development of robots for everyday use.
Researchers at the Distributed Robotics Laboratory (DRL), at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, are busy developing self sculpting sand (robots) that look tiny in size but what they do is really exciting and sounds coming from some science fiction movie at the first instance.
These smart pebbles can join together to form the replica of a tool on your demand. All you have to do is to throw in a tool of your choice in the bag of the sand, shake it a little bit, and take out the exact replica of your model tool few seconds later.
Each cube (robot) is of 1cm from all four sides and the researchers have also developed an algorithm to control these tiny creatures.
“We want to have a bag of this material that can form any shape you demand.” said PhD student Kyle Gilpin.
“So if you are in an isolated situation and you need a certain tool, you can tell that to the bag by making a miniaturised model of the tool, drop it into the bag, shake it around, and what you would end up with inside would be a magnified copy of the tool which is usable.” he added further.
Thirty prototypes are being tested by the researchers and they are trying to perfect their functioning. They have used electropermanent magnets on each side of the cubes for them to stick together. The cubes are also embedded with microprocessors that control the magnet effect. These tiny robots have only 2KB of working memory and they can store 32KB of code at the moment.
Once the pebbles are joined together to form a certain shape unnecessary bonds are broken.
“All the other bonds which are not crucial to the duplicate shape are broken, while the bonds between the modules in the shape are left intact – and so you are left with just the recreated shape when the process ends.” Gilpin elucidates.
There is lots of work yet to be done on this project and it Gilpin hopes it will be out some 10 years from now. “…in 10 years you might see a product on the market that starts to rival traditional manufacturing approaches. I think we might all be surprised at how quickly this advances once people really start looking at the technology.”
The team from DRL will be presenting its research paper at IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in St Paul, Minnesota, next month.