A US Army think tank and MIT say that self-assembling structures including bridges are now possible with the use of robotic metamaterials. The envisioned system would deploy itself in the form of robot swarms using shapes generated by artificial intelligence at the cellular level to create the desired structures.



There are two schools of thought when it comes to building bridges. There’s the traditional way involving humans assembling materials to create a unique structure. And then there’s the way MIT and the US Army want to do it: you open a box and a bunch of Lego-style construction bricks fly out and turn themselves into a bridge.

When those bricks – actually, more like interlocking snowflakes – get done being a bridge, they could be autonomously reconfigured to suit another need such as becoming a boat or a glider. They could also simply disassemble themselves and return to storage.

This might sound like something out of Neural’s Guide to the Glorious Future of AI, but it’s actually completely grounded in present-day technology.MIT and a US Army think-tank recently published a research paper detailing the development of a mass-producible, reconfigurable, metamaterial that could be used to create robots made out of robots.