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Megatron, Eat Your Heart Out. MIT Has Built 'Transformer' Blocks.

October 15, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229442

The science behind Megatron and Optimus Prime is now reality.

The raison d'etre of the Transformers, be they Autobots or Decepticons, is their ability to reconfigure themselves into cars, trucks, planes and other objects. It turns out researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory are developing a new technology that might make the idea behind Transformers a reality faster than you think.

They're developing something called M-Blocks. About an inch and a half across on each side, these tiny cubes contain a battery-powered flywheel that when spun at high speed -- up to 20,000 revolutions per minute -- enable the cubes to move across a surface or flip into the air, according to a report from Wired. An internal braking mechanism allows them to stop on command. An external magnet system allows the cubes to easily yet powerfully attach and detach from one another.

OK, this might be a ways off from Transformers, but check out the video.

There have been other examples of self-assembling robots, but the researchers say the combination of technologies behind M-Blocks is new and more elegant than anything before. In this iteration, the flywheels and brakes are being controlled by hand via remote control. The researchers are working on ways to allow the cubes to automate movement themselves.

Someday, if you can enable blocks like these with cameras and other equipment, you might be able to create multiple types of "machines" for different tasks with just one set of cubes. Now that sounds like something with some real-world potential.

While we're at it, here's another video showing off more of what these cubes can do:

What crazy apps and gadgets have you come across lately? Let us know by emailing us at FarOutTech@entrepreneur.com or by telling us in the comments below.