MIT creates self-assembling cell phones

A researcher puts magnetized hardware components into a tumbler, and they form two separate cell phones. The idea has potential applications for assembly lines.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
The hardware parts used in the experiment.

The hardware parts used in the experiment.

Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

Would you like a phone that had assembled itself?

That's the idea researchers at MIT's Self-Assembly Lab have been experimenting with, says a report in Co.Design. The team designed six pieces of hardware and put them inside a spinning drum. After a while the parts clicked onto each other via magnetism and formed two separate cell phones.

According to the researchers, though the experiment seems simple, the trick is the speed of the tumbler. Too fast, the parts can break. Too slow, they never assemble. It's important to note that these parts are designed so that they can fit only with certain other parts. The two phones are the only outcome, there are no alternatives.

The idea behind the experiment is automation. Going forward, the tumbler can replace the assembly line where humans do the job of putting parts together.

And no, you might not want either of these phones, because they look like those dumb-phones from the '80s and it's not clear if they can actually make calls.