Small cubes with no exterior moving parts that can propel itself to move forward, jump on top of each other, and snap together to form shapes has been designed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Known as M-Blocks, the robots are able to even move while suspended upside down from metallics surfaces.
According to the institute, inside each block is a flywheel that can reach speeds of 20,000 revolutions per minute. When the flywheel is braked, it imparts angular momentum to the cube.
On each edge of an M-Block, and on every face, are cleverly arranged permanent magnets that allow any two cubes to attach to each other.
MIT electrical engineering and computer science professor Daniela Rus told senior student John Romanishin in 2011 that it "can't be done". However, two years later, Romanishin has created the impossible. Rus said:
It’s one of these things that the [modular-robotics] community has been trying to do for a long time.
We just needed a creative insight and somebody who was passionate enough to keep coming at it — despite being discouraged.