The robot tiles emerged as the brainchild of Hiroo Iwata, a virtual reality researcher at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. A touch-sensitive conductive fabric covers each robot and gauges the pressure applied by a walking person's foot, which goes toward predicting the next step.
Ultrasonic sensors also help relay position and orientation of each tile back to a central computer that acts as the conductor. It's an oddly serene robotic ballet, even when two tiles have queued up to move down the line.
Video at the link.
Image: DigInfo Video News