I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


14 November 2013

Modular robot toys

The BBC has an interesting story Build-your-own robot construction kits unveiled, though I did wonder why the principle had to be restricted to toys.

Modular Robotics, based in Boulder, Colorado, is responsible for the World patent application Modular Kinematic Construction Kit and also the older Modular Robotics , which has the drawing shown below.

The idea is mixing cubes to form new structures. Many toys follow that theme, but here magnetic balls act as joints and hinges, and internal flywheels enable movement, or wheels can be attached. No software needs to be written to operate them, and a Bluetooth module means that a smartphone or tablet can control them.

Each cubelet will cost about $25 and up. The video below shows how it works.

Shipping in January or February is envisaged by the company.

MIT has also been devising cube-shaped robots, as explained in an article from MITNews. They are called M-blocks, and look rather similar.

If the price can be got down I can see such cubes as a brilliant entry point for robotics classes in schools.

They also reminded me of the World patent application Programmable materials, applied for in 1994 by Joseph Michael of London, as illustrated below.

Cubes are used in all three concepts. It is the obvious shape: they neatly stack together, and are compact, but more importantly they mean that the surfaces are adjacent to each other, allowing all sorts of interactions without using wifi. I love the way such toys make the imagination soar by enabling students to "mix and match" to create new shapes and ideas.

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