Self-Organizing “Robot Pebbles” Used to Duplicate 3d Objects:
The Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT today detailed research aimed at replicating objects by essentially carving them from an unformed pile of “smart sand” or “robot pebbles.”
The vision is to have these miniature robots automatically create replicas of different sizes with only an original shape to work with. A key difference from other approaches to replicating objects is that, unlike three-dimensional printing techniques, the smart sand builds by subtracting building blocks from a larger heap, according to MIT.
Each of the pebbles is equipped with a very simply processor and the ability to communicate with pebbles which touch it. Individual robots send messages among themselves to determine the original shape and their relative position to each other. With that information, they can begin to replicate the original shape from the larger pile of devices.