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A Freaky Gyro Cube Defies Gravity and Balances Perfectly

Google wants a bunch of scary ass robots for this Christmas. Definitely, the big ticket items under the tree are Big Dog and other Boston Dynamics nightmare menagerie. However, if Sergey and Larry are still looking for more stuffs to put in stockings, this freaky balancing cube may be just the right choice.


Yes, this is the cube. *Image source: ETH Zurich

Cubli, a project of the Dynamic Systems and Control Lab at the Swiss engineering school ETH Zurich, is a 6 inch by 6 inch metal block, employing three spinning wheels to perform a series of tricks.

Even more unsettling, though (and more impressive), are the cube’s preternatural ability of balance. “When the Cubli reaches the corner stand up position, controlled motor torques will be applied to make sure its perfect balance on its corner, “The researcher explained.  One can change the angle of the surface it is on, give the balancing wonder a gentle push to the side, or send rotating like a top, and still, this amazing little thing maintains its balletic poise.

The stabilization of Cubli comes courtesy of the precise choreography of the internal spinning wheels. From the image below, it is seen that the creators installed multiple inertial sensors (red), batteries, data processor (cyan), spinning wheels (yellow), DC motors (green) and motor controller (blue). The three spinning wheels are directly connected with the DC motors and the three motors are controlled individually by corresponding motor controllers.

Cubli structure

Structure of Cubli. *Image source: ETH Zurich

The creators of Cubli humbly tout its power to “walk”— flip itself from face to face using angular momentum. There are two steps in tranforming Cubli from laying down to standing on a leg: firstly, the fast rotating of spinning wheels allow the cube to stand up, accomplishing the transform from laying down to standing – using only one edge to contact with the surface and keep balance; then Cubli can lift one foot, support itself only on the vertex. Through the spinning of three spinning wheels, Cubli can continuously lift feet and keep walking elegantly.

Cubli walking strategy

“Walking” strategy of Cubli. *Image source: ETH Zurich

The researchers noted that the Cubli system is similar to the one that maintains satellites oriented in space, but with completely different algorithm. In the future, the team said, this technology might be used in research of planetary exploration and self-assemble robots. Now, the researchers are developing algorithms that allow Cubli to “automatic learn” and respond dynamically to changes in weight, inertia or its surface. Presumably after that comes the algorithm that allows it to tumble out of its lab in Zurich and lurch into your bedroom at night.

Source WIRED.

Image source:ETH Zurich