This is terrifying - a robot that you can't destroy. If you break it by kicking it to pieces then the pieces simply move towards each other and reassemble. Is this science fiction or gothic horror made real?
We are used to the idea of robot swarms being useful if slighly strange, but what about a robot made up of modules that are connected using magnets. If you disrupt the organization then each module has enough intelligence and degrees of freedom to detect any nearby modules and re-form the original robot.
"Mark Yim's ModLab (University of Pennsylvania) develops relatively simple robots that can quickly self-assemble into more complex configurations. This trait could prove useful when robots are deployed to places with unknown or unstable terrain, because they are able to reconfigure their bodies to tackle unpredictable obstacles on the fly. This video shows some of the capabilities of CKbot, a chain-style modular robot."
Just watch the video - but make sure you watch to the very end:
I liked the narrative
"during assembly another external disturbance is applied"
which translates to
"one of the researchers kicks the machine again!"
Overall it is very impressive, if a bit on the slow side, but it all really falls apart at the end of the video when the degrees of coupling between the modules proves to be not quite good enough to stop them falling apart when someone doesn't kick them.
OK it is funny and slighly creepy, but I think there is promise in this approach.
"One of the main aspects of the solution is what we call structured disassembly. Some may argue that rather than spend efforts to efforts should be spent to make sure the system won’t break into pieces in the first place. One response to this argument is that there may be unexpected conditions in which forces are larger than planned for, such as an earthquake or terrorist activity. Even beyond this, there are situations where breaking apart may be desired. Just as car bumpers are made to crumple to absorb the energy of an impact, the disassembly of specific bonds holding a structure together may also absorb the energy of an impact. Ski boot detachment devices are an example of a system where structured disassembly helps to protect more fragile components, such as injury to feet and legs. Here, an important metric in analyzing the level of recoverable explosion is the amount of energy absorbed by the breaking of bonds."