Stay on target LEGO bricks have proven themselves more than a simple children’s toy.But can the plastic pieces provoke a major shift in industrial manufacturing?Autodesk thinks so. Which is why the software company has been working on Brickbot—a project aimed at redefining how customers engage and collaborate with robots.The system—a couple of android arms with cameras and sensors—doesn’t look like anything groundbreaking. But it’s what’s inside that counts.A team of San Francisco-based researchers, led by Mike Haley and Yotto Koga, created neural networks that allow the machines to process and respond to data to accomplish an assigned task.“The dirty little secret about industrial robots today is that they’re pretty dumb,” Autodesk wrote last month, promoting an article by Fast Company. “Change one variable on the assembly line and everything goes to hell.”Brickbot, however, “can evaluate components (in this case, LEGOs), make decisions on the fly, and put them together in a flexible, responsive way.”What sounds like child’s play (because, well, it is)—sorting through piles of bricks, selecting appropriate parts, correctly assembling and stacking—is actually an achievement in the field of robotics.“The programming process is incredibly tedious, complicated, and frequently error-prone,” an Autodesk blog post said. “If it takes nine months to program your robot to perform a single task, you’re not going to change the design of your product or introduce new technology into your factory—it would simply take too much time and money.“Machine learning could change all of that.”Imagine the possibilities if Brickbot’s automated assembly technology were scaled up for use in factories and on construction sites. “By starting with plastic bricks, we’ve been able to keep the project manageable while still having the freedom to experiment from the design stage all the way to a finished product,” according to Koga, a software architect with a Ph.D. in robotics.“Now we’re close to taking the next step,” he said, tipping a partnership with manufacturing and construction customers “to see how the Brickbot technology can be applied in the real world.” Evan Rachel Wood Just As Disturbed by Humanoid Sophia As Everyone ElseMIT’s Thread-Like Robot Slides Through Blood Vessels In the Brain Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.