Created by associate professors Mark Yim and C.J. Taylor of the University of Pennsylvania (Modular Robotics Lab), the ckBot is one of those head-scratching inventions that leave you wondering how the heck they made it. The ckBot is a robot made of several small blocks that are each equipped with a computer, several motors, an accelerometer, camera, wireless connection, proximity sensor, and signaling light. When assembled, the robot is able to stand and walk. However, the amazing part is that when the ckBot is broken apart, by kicking it for example, the pieces are able to find each other and rebuild its entire self. More videos after the break.
Each module of the ckBot is able to determine the location of all of the other pieces by scanning a 120-degree area looking for each others’ signal light (or LED blinker). Once broken apart, the blocks find each other and begin the reassembly process. Each module is docked through the use of eight magnets arranged in alternating poles that allows for connections in 90 degree angles — making improper connections rare. Through the use of an IR port, each module begins communicating to each other to determine which blocks will become the arms and legs. Similarly, the ckBot is capable of different means of locomotion and can reconfigure its structure to avoid obstacles, as seen in the video below.