By Evan Ackerman
The SuperBot modular robotic system is made up of a bunch of identical, independent little robots that can connect to each other in different ways depending on what they’re trying to accomplish. Each bot consists of two cubes connected by a hinge, with an onboard power supply, servos, sensors, a microcomputer, and six connecting faces to attach to other bots. When connected, all of the bot modules coordinate their movements depending on how many modules there are, how they’re connected, and where they need to go. If they run into a snag, they can always detach and reconfigure themselves into (effectively) an entirely different robot. SuperBots are obviously still a work in progress (you may have seen a prototype and some computer models on the Discovery Channel (or Science Channel) show Beyond Tomorrow, but the current design stage (reached only last week) is a much better illustration of their long term potential.
This video shows a SuperBot autonomously locating, approaching, and (almost) connecting to another module. You can’t help but root for the little guy as he searches for his new body part:
A whole bunch of videos (all WMVs) of SuperBots climbing, walking, rolling (very cool), caterpillaring, and butterflying are available here, and you can see a video from the bot’s perspective here (direct WMV link).