Photo credit: Steve Boxall/ZeroG
Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed ElectroVoxels, which are shape-shifting robots for space exploration that utilize electromagnetism, or the electromagnetic fields generated by the movement of electric current . These small, easily manufactured, inexpensive electromagnets can be integrated into the edges of the cubes that repel and attract, allowing them to spin, move around each other as well as rapidly change shape. Read more for a video and additional information.
Unlike other robots, ElectroVoxels are entirely wireless, making it far easier to maintain and manufacture for a large-scale system. Each one boasts a side length of approximately 60 millimeters, and the magnets consist of ferrite core wrapped with copper wire. Look inside each cube, and you’ll discover tiny printed circuit boards as well as other electronics that send current through the right electromagnet in the right direction.
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ElectroVoxels show how to engineer a fully reconfigurable system, and exposes our scientific community to the challenges that need to be tackled to have a fully functional modular robotic system in orbit. This research demonstrates how electromagnetically actuated pivoting cubes are simple to build, operate, and maintain, enabling a flexible, modular and reconfigurable system that can serve as an inspiration to design intelligent components of future exploration missions,” said Dario Izzo, head of the Advanced Concepts Team at the ESA.