MIT’s ‘roboats’ autonomously form bridges across bodies of water

Need to bridge a wide pond or canal in a pinch, or perhaps a backyard pool? Robots pioneered by researchers at MIT and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute) might fit the bill. Dubbed robotic boats, or roboats, they’re autonomous platforms designed to “shapeshift” at will by reassembling into different configurations.

As MIT’s Rob Matheson explains in a blog post, the roboats — rectangular hulls packing sensors, thrusters, microcontrollers, GPS modules, cameras, and other hardware — are the fruit of the ongoing Roboat joint project between MIT and the AMS Institute. Its longstanding goal is to create structures capable of ferrying goods and people along Amsterdam’s over 160 canals, and of self-assembling into bridges that could help reduce pedestrian congestion.