Engineers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich’s Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control have developed a mechanical cube that can perform a variety of actions. The 15 cm cube-shaped prototype, called Cubli, is a lot like a robot and can move around using its own internal mechanics and software.
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s (also called ETH) Cubli may just prove to be the prototype that could help in the development of new space exploration vehicles and self-assembling robots. Cubli has three reaction wheels that are each attached to a brushless DC motor. It also consists of movement sensors, a built-in processor and a battery.
The sensors estimate the cubes angle of tilt and the software integrated into the processor calculates how much angular velocity is required by the reaction wheels to maintain that angle. The jumping of the cube is caused by the sudden braking of the reaction wheels which transfers momentum to the body and causes the whole body to jump depending on the pattern of braking of the wheels. Two different jump maneuvers are used to balance Cubli on its edge, the first allowing it to rest on its edge and the second pulling it on to its corner.
Disturbances can easily be detected by Cubli, allowing it to adjust its position to maintain its stance or rotate in place. A controlled fall is used to bring the Cubli to any of the desired edges. Using a combination of falling, jumping and balancing moves, the Cubli is able to “walk” in any desired direction.
As mentioned earlier, the technology incorporated into this simple little cube can be used in a wide variety of future applications, but the people who developed Cubli say that it was designed simply to “jump up, balance and walk”.