A boring old cube doesn’t exactly seem like the ideal form factor for a robot. But that didn’t stop a group of students from the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control at ETH Zurich from designing and building this unique automaton that can stand and balance on a single corner, and even hobble across a room.
Cubli’s secret is a set of flywheels located behind three of its faces. When they’re spinning at high velocities they’re individually controlled to allow the cube to maintain its balance, but they can also be abruptly stopped which causes the cube to be launched into the air. By carefully controlling how the cube stands, falls, and moves, it can even walk its away across a flat surface, in a manner of speaking. The practicality of such a unique approach to robot design remains to be seen, but damned if it doesn’t make for one awesomely distracting paperweight sitting on your desk.