Researchers over at MIT are always working on things that seem impossible, yet somehow they make it work. A perfect example is the new little magnetic cubes that researchers at the University have designed that are able to communicate with each other and auto duplicate objects using a subtractive production algorithm. The little devices were created in MIT's Distributed Robotics Laboratory at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
The researchers hope that someday the system may be able to allow for the spontaneous formation of replacements for broken objects. The key to the system is a subtractive production algorithms that the researchers hope will enable the creation of "smart sand" that are self-sculpting reconfigurable robot cubes that distribute messages among themselves to re-create a three-dimensional object.
The process sounds somewhat similar to 3-D printing only rather than having to use an additive such as some sort of resin and a laser, the smart sand would be able replicate objects by carving them out of a larger mass of construction material using an original shape as a guide. The algorithm is being tested using "pebbles" are about 10 mm across with very basic microprocessors inside and magnets on four sides. Check out the video to get a better idea of how the system would work.