iMobot modular robots, developed by researchers at UC Davis, are small modules that link together like a chain to form larger robotic modules. The modules have two joints at the center which can rotate 180 degrees. The robots have four degrees of freedom, so they can stand themselves up, roll end over end, stack themselves, and inch along like a caterpillar. They can even carry cameras. And the researchers are looking to make them available commercially soon. Read more, and see a video of the iMobot in action after the break.
The researchers propose that the robot could be used for search and rescue operations, as well as robotics research. Another idea is a snake-like robot with a camera that could climb a tree for surveillance. The iMobots have rotating faceplates at each end, which turn continuously so that the robot can roll along like a truck. Creators Graham Ryland and Harry Cheng are planning further research exploring using clusters of iMobots which would work together in larger configurations. The two received a $150,000 National Science Foundation grant to start their company, Barobo Inc. They have applied for a patent, and plan to commercialize the iMobot.
If you think one of these might come in handy, you can find out about the Barobo Inc. early adopter program here. They hope to have the robots available by the end of the year. I know my two year old would love one of these, but it might be a bit out of our price range.
Check out the iMobot in action: