I am sure everyone has been exposed to LEGO blocks at some point in their life. If not, have a peek here. Now just imagine the LEGO pieces floating in mid-air, organizing themselves into small clusters, and then stacking themselves to look like entire LEGO cities. The Rise of the LEGO Blocks may sound like a nightmare for some, but for the guys at Carnegie Mellon and the many Claytronics researchers worldwide, it’s an exciting idea with endless possibilities.
Claytronics explores the potential for tiny robots to arrange themselves into macroscopic structures through advanced algorithms (which are effective methods for solving a problem) and communication technologies. This means the ‘LEGO blocks’ can do much more than moving around and stacking on top of one another. They can move around in a controlled manner by talking to each other, processing information to figure out what their role is in the ensemble and react accordingly. The challenge is to pack all that mechanical and computational capabilities into a sub-millimeter unit and giving them the appropriate smart algorithm so the millions of pieces can figure out how to form a macroscopic structure.
Michael Harboun from Paris has shown us the power of this technology and what it may enable for your perfectly innocent kitchen wall. His Living Kitchen was nominated for the Imagina Awards 2010 for Best Design and Communication. Warning: Don’t be alarmed by the below video. It’s definitely a cool idea.
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Although the idea seems far-fetched as current implementations of these building blocks are too large and bulky to render a smooth surface, and the ‘pasta-generating’ capability shall remain on the wish list for quite a while… The practical features of heat generation or change of colours don’t seem difficult to implement, as long as they figure out a way to power these guys up.
So what do you think? Science fiction or can we expect to see these on the shelves in a few years time? =)