Watch This Freaky Gyro Cube Balance Perfectly, Defying Gravity

Yikes. Image: ETH Zurich

All Google wants for Christmas is a bunch of scary ass robots. Clearly, the big ticket items under the tree are Big Dog and the rest of the Boston Dynamics nightmare menagerie. But if Larry and Sergey are still looking for a stocking stuffer, this freaky balancing cube might be just the thing.

Cubli, a project out of the Dynamic Systems and Control lab at the Swiss engineering school ETH Zurich, is a 6 inch by 6 inch metal block that employs three spinning wheels to perform a variety of tricks. Its creators humbly tout its ability to “walk,” using angular momentum to flip itself from face to face. This feat was kinda cute when MIT’s diminutive M-Blocks were doing it. Here it’s a little more unsettling.

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Even more unsettling, though (and more impressive), are Cubli’s preternatural powers of balance. “Once the Cubli has almost reached the corner stand up position, controlled motor torques are applied to make it balance on its corner,” we’re told. You can change the angle of the surface it’s on, give the balancing wonder a gentle push to the side, or send it spinning like a top, and still, the devil cube retains its balletic poise.

The stabilization comes courtesy of the precise choreography of the internal spinning wheels–a system the researchers point out is similar to the one that keeps satellites oriented in space. Now, the team says they’re developing algorithms that allow Cubli to “automatically learn” and respond dynamically to changes in inertia, weight, or its surface. Presumably after that comes the algorithm that lets it tumble out of its lab in Zurich and lurch into your bedroom at night.

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