Crowd Funded Jumping Cubes

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) recently contributed their Int-Ball  technology to a Kickstarter campaign operated by the Japanese electronics manufacturer / distributor Bit Trade One (Japanese site). This technology is based on the Cubli project out of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), which we covered back in 2013. The Cubli-based technology has been appearing in various projects since then, including the Nonlinear Mechatronic Cube in 2016.  Alas, the current JAXA-based “3-Axis Attitude Control Module” project doesn’t have a catchy name — yet.

One interesting application of these jumping cubes, presumably how JAXA got involved with these devices, is a floating video camera that was put to use on board the International Space Station (ISS) in 2017.  The version being offered by the Kickstarter campaign doesn’t include the cameras, and you will need to provide your own a gravity-free environment to duplicate that application.  Instead, they seem to be marketing this for educational uses.  You’d better dig deep in your wallet if you want one — a fully assembled unit requires a pledge of over $5000 ( there is a “some assembly required” kit that can save you about $1000 ).  Most of us won’t be backing this project for that reason alone, but it is nice to see the march of progress of such a cool technology:  from inception to space applications to becoming available to the general public.  Thanks to [Lincoln Uehara] for sending in this tip.

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Resistance Is Futile: Balancing Cubes Are Taking Over!

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a balancing cube, but as different companies and universities start making them, we’re excited to see how they continue to develop. This one doesn’t really have a catchy name, but its designers [Erik Bjerke] and [Björn Pehrsson] call it a Nonlinear Mechatronic Cube.

Very similar to Cubli — the first self-balancing cube inside of balancing cubewe remember seeing — this cube can jump up from surfaces, “walk” and balance in any orientation.

The system features an IMU to determine orientation, three gyros powered by beefy 70W motors, three bicycle brakes powered by servo motors, and a microprocessor to control it all.

The way it balances is quite obvious with the gyros, but the ability to jump comes from the rapid breaking of the “reaction wheels”, allowing for a sudden impulse of force that is powerful enough to reorient the entire cube. The interesting part is how both systems are actually controlled individually with separate control systems.

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A Balancing, Walking Cube Named Cubli

Meet Cubli! Cubli is a 15 x 15 x 15cm robotic cube that can roll around and balance on its corners using a series of gyroscopes.

The project has been going strong since February 2011 at the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control in Zurich, where it is starting to get quite impressive. We first shared Cubli earlier this year, when it was just a wee 2-dimensional and corded 3-dimensional prototype.

Since then, it has become a fully enclosed wireless cube capable of jumping up on its end, balancing, and controlled falling — it can walk and roll! To do this, it has three large reaction wheels on each axis which can impart their angular velocity on the entire cube when the braked, allowing it to move in any direction.

According to the video after the break, the team is just building the cube “because they can”, however other researchers are interested in the technologies applications in self-assembling robots, and even planetary exploration.

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