We’ve seen both companies and research teams attempt to make modular robots an everyday reality, but, more often than not, they all run into the same problem: the mechanism that allows those devices to connect to each other is complicated and fragile. With a new design called FreeBOT, a team of researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen may have figured out a simple but elegant solution to that problem as highlighted by IEE Spectrum.
Each FreeBOT comes encased within an iron shell. Inside, there are a pair of motorized wheels and a single magnet — in that way, it’s not too dissimilar from one of Sphero’s adorable STEM toys. The combination of a ferromagnetic shell and an internal magnet is what allows two or more FreeBOTs to attach to one another. When a FreeBOT moves close to one of its friends, its magnet excites a magnetic