Deciding that the lowly building block was due for an upgrade, researchers at MIT have created something amazing. The simple-looking M-Blocks are made from an aluminum frame filled with electronics, an electric motor that can spin up to 20,000 rpm, and a flywheel. And they can perform some amazing feats without any human intervention.
A small rubber belt means the energy stored up in an M-Blocks' flywheel can be instantly transferred to its frame, letting it flip, roll, and even jump short distances. And with a collection of 24 magnets covering every edge of the M-Blocks's outer surface, they're able to stick to each other on-demand, so they can self-assemble into complex structures.
In their current form the blocks need to be large enough to accommodate the electronics and mechanics inside, but one day their guts might be small enough to facilitate self-assembling Lego sets, plastic brick creations that are easy to bring to life, or the world's smallest automated circus act. [YouTube via Popular Science]