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These robots can work alone or put their brains together

Eleven autonomous robots form a plier-like shape. Photo: Marco Dorigo and Nithin Mathews

Researchers in Brussels have designed a way for robots to merge their control systems with one another to create a larger robot. The new technology allows a robot to split into several smaller units and then merge again in different shapes and configurations.

Why it matters: Robots will eventually move out of the predictable environments of manufacturing floors and into changing worlds that will require them to adapt. That's the goal of research into autonomous, modular robots like these.