Self-sculpting 'smart sand' can assume any shape, create instant prototypes (video)

A new algorithm developed by the Distributed Robotics Laboratory at MIT's Computer Science could lead to an exciting fast prototyping tool, being dubbed "smart sand." Immerse an object in the sand, tiny cubes that send simple proximity messages to each other, which relay through the swarm and determine which blocks are adjacent to the object to be modeled, and those that aren't. Using this data, it's possible to create a map of the subject to be replicated. Initial tests were performed using 2D models, but has also been shown to work reliably with 3D shapes also. While true smart sand would need "grains" much smaller than currently possible, it's said that this isn't an "insurmountable obstacle." The paper will be presented at the IEEE conference in May, or keep going past the break for the explanatory video.