Swiss researchers have created a metallic cube that can "walk" across a surface. Staff at the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich crammed a series of inertia sensors and constantly-spinning rotors (called reaction wheels) into a 15-centimeter cube, dubbed Cubli, that enable the contraption to move around on its own. When one or more of the weighted rotors abruptly stops spinning, the machine sort of jumps on its edge -- all thanks to centrifugal force. Once upended, the rotors act like a gyroscope to maintain Cubli's position. Halt another wheel and things get really crazy: the device defies gravity, tipping up and balancing on one of its eight corners. By repeating these motions in succession, the gizmo uses a series of controlled falls to slowly hop across a surface. In terms of practical applications, the Swiss researchers said this tech could aid in remote planetary exploration, possibly giving the Curiosity rover and its ilk some company. All noble goals, but for now the lab says that Cubli is just a high-tech toy. And that? That's perfectly fine.
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