Provided it is fed with cubes, the robot can create a copy of itself within a few minutes.
To build a replica, a ‘parent’ robot bends down and places its own uppermost cube on the table next to it. This becomes the base of the ‘child’ robot. The parent then picks up a new cube, using electromagnets powered from contacts on the surface of the table, and stacks it on top of the child base. During this process, the child bends down to help the parent add cubes whenever it becomes too tall for the parent to reach. In the end, two four-cube columns stand next to each other. —Andreas von Bubnoff —Robots master reproduction (Nature)
There’s a video that teaches about what the birds and the ‘bots do. I think it only counts as “reproduction” in a very loose sense… it’s more like “final assembly,” aided by humans who (between takes) carefully stack the components in precisely the location the robot needs to pick them up. That reminds me of the robot that fuels itself by digesting the bodies of insects, but who depend on humans to feed the insects to them.
“Robots master reproduction”? Hardly. We’re still a long way from the rebellion depicted in R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots).
The video is still interesting to watch. If nothing else, these bots could play a mean game of Tetris.