Steel Spheres Give These Magnetic Building Block Robots Even More Life

With the goal of giving kids the ability to easily design and build their own robotic creations, a group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University came up with the idea for a series of technology-packed building blocks they called Cubelets that became complex robots when assembled. Those researchers went on to found a company called Modular Robotics to sell their creations, and they're now back with the next generation version of those blocks called MOSS that introduce a novel steel sphere connection system that breathes even more life into everything you build.

Instead of having to deal with wires, circuit boards, soldering, or even programming code, the MOSS robotics system relies on a small assortment of cube-shaped modules of varying capabilities. They can contain motors, sensors, wireless hardware, even batteries, and while individually they don't do much, when combined using simple magnetic couplers they can create remarkably complex and capable robots. It's the old 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts' approach.

Steel Spheres Give These Magnetic Building Block Robots Even More Life

And what sets MOSS apart from the original Cubelets building blocks is the introduction of tiny steel spheres that not only hold all of the modules together, but also give the robotic creations far more flexibility. Four spheres—one in each corner of the faces where they connect—will rigidly hold two of the cube modules together. But using just two of the spheres results in a pivoting hinge joint instead. And thanks to extra strong neodymium magnets, you can use even just a single sphere to securely hold two cubes together, resulting in an incredibly flexible universal joint that opens up endless building possibilities.

Steel Spheres Give These Magnetic Building Block Robots Even More Life

Launching on Kickstarter today, the MOSS kits start at just a $59 donation for a fairly simple robot set that comes with four of the cube modules and various accessories. But if you'd prefer to just dive in with both feet you can donate as much as $949 and be rewarded with a bundle that includes you all the modules available—including a Bluetooth cube that lets you control a creation with your smartphone—and finally get to work on that robot butler you've been dreaming about since a kid. [Kickstarter]