Programmable matter: MIT building self-assembling robots for space

John Koetsier
1 min readMar 16, 2022

MIT scientists are building ElectroVoxels, small, smart, self-assembling robots designed for space.

It’s programmable matter, infinitely recyclable large-scale 3D printing, if you will, and it could be the future of robotics and machinery in space. In this TechFirst, I chat with MIT CSAIL PhD student Martin Nisser about building swarms of tiny configurable robots.

“Rather than building a robot or a structure in a top-down manner, we envision robots or structures as these modules of hundreds or thousands of small components or modules that can rearrange themselves with respect to their neighbors,” Nisser says.

The mini-bots don’t have actuators: they use “small, easily manufactured, inexpensive electromagnets into the edges of the cubes that repel and attract, allowing the robots to spin and move around each other and rapidly change shape.”

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John Koetsier

Senior contributor @ Forbes. Host of the TechFirst podcast. Find me here: