Looking inward on the human race, you might consider our obsession with robot uprisings a tad silly.
Really, the thought of a man-made object achieving sentience then proceeding to wipe out the human race and continue to try killing one man through the use of time travel is a bit weird, but our fears may be well-grounded once you see that this robotic cube has better balance than most humans.
Its called Cubli and its a one-off project done by researchers in Switzerland at the ETH Zurich Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control (read: DARPA-like group that is kept fed daily with chocolate). ETH’s research was spurred on by advances in electronics that allow for devices like the Cubli, which use gyroscopes for precise balance, to exist.
Cubli’s claim to fame is that it can balance perfectly still on any side or edge of its surface, even going so far as to balance right on the top of the cube at one of its eight corners. No amount of finger-prodding can cause it to lose balance and the cube even compensates for changes in elevation and the angle of the surface its on.
Three internal wheels angled along a different axis each will spin faster or slower in order to maintain enough momentum to keep the cube balanced. By quickly halting and re-spinning a wheel, the cube can also be made to move around on its axis and spin like a Beyblade top.
In addition, the cube can walk on its own. Using the gears to provide forward momentum, Cubli throws its weight around to traverse a table set up by researchers in the video and while it does so slowly, it can be sped up with faster gears and more optimised weight distribution.
The researchers say that Cubli’s system of spinning wheels is similar to what stabilizes satellites out in space, and that other research groups have considered using this technology to build robots that could be used to explore other planets.
Because its not financially viable to build separate robots to adjust to each planet’s gravitational pull, the alternative solution is to build a device that can handle most terrain without needing to be made in a specialised manner for any planet.
Students and researchers at MIT in Boston, Massachusetts have also been working on a similar idea, but their cube can only walk and jump around. MIT’s design also uses magnets and has all the cubes communicating wirelessly in order to work together to perform a specific task.
So, MIT has effectively built the framework for mini-Zords becoming a Megazord. Somewhere along the line we’ll have it fight a fat dinosaur or something.