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Incredible Robots Walk, Roll, Climb and Cooperate

Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
Sat Feb 24, 11:35 AM ET

They’re not quite Transformers, but new robots created by researchers at the University of Southern California are definitely more than meets the eye.


Called “superbots,” they are made up of identical modular units that plug into each other to create robots that can walk on four legs like an animal [image] or two like a human [image], crawl like a centipede, climb like a spider, wiggle like a snake and even roll like a wheel [image].

“Superbot consists of Lego-like but autonomous robotic modules that can reconfigure into different systems for different tasks,” explained Wei-Min Shen, a researcher involved in the robot’s development. “This design allows flexible bending, docking and continous rotation. A single module can move forward, back, left, right, flip-over and rotate as a wheel.”

Each module contains its own power supply, sensors and micro-controllers. They can communicate with one another and even reshuffle themselves.

Shen recently presented the Superbots at the 2007 Space Technology and Application International Forum (STAIF) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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