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Self-sculpting sand robots are under development at MIT

Tiny robots that can join together to form functional tools and then split apart again after use might be ready for market in little more than a decade, according to researchers.

A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says it has developed about 30 prototype “smart pebbles” and the software to run them.

The sides of each cube are 1cm (0.4 inches) in length.

Efforts are now focused on creating smaller models.

The researchers from the university’s Distributed Robotics Laboratory liken the ultimate product they are trying to develop to “self-sculpting sand”.

“We want to have a bag of this material that can form any shape you demand,” PhD student Kyle Gilpin told the BBC.

“So if you are in an isolated situation and you need a certain tool, you can tell that to the bag by making a miniaturised model of the tool, drop it into the bag, shake it around - and what you would end up with inside would be a magnified copy of the tool which is usable.”

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