This Rolling, Transforming Droid Is the Stuff of Nightmares

The MorpHex can roll around in a ball, then unpack and walk on its six legs.

Apr 16 2014, 3:05pm

So, this is how it starts. You hear a crunch, crunch, crunch—the sound of an imperfectly-round plastic ball rolling over concrete, chasing you down an alley. You look back and you see this… thing. It was a sphere a few seconds ago, but now is an ambling, walking machine of death. The top opens like a flower, or like a nuclear launch silo, whatever simile you prefer. In any case, the MorpHex is a robot that looks like it’s straight out of your (my?) nightmares.

Our UK editor Vicki Turk thinks the MorpHex looks cute, like the Pokemon Sandshrew, but I’m not sure I agree. Let's just say I don't want to be friends with it. And you probably won’t either, not after checking out Norwegian engineer Kåre Halvorsen’s previous robots—the spider-looking Oxyopus, the biped Archer, the scorpion-inspired A-pod (and its updated version, the FireAnt)—are just as creepy.

But it’s also an incredible piece of technology. The MorpHex is divided into a series of sections, each with two motors, that help the robot roll around on the ground, open up, and transform the panels into legs so it can walk. Pop some sort of laser blaster inside and you’ve got a death droid.

Halvorsen calls the new model the MKII (coincidentally a war robot in Metal Gear Solid games), and, unlike the MKI, which could only go in circles, it’s able to roll in a straight line. He says it's "just like driving an RC car."

In all seriousness, though, Halvorsen’s work is beautiful, elegantly designed, and some of the most cutting-edge stuff out there. All of his work is worth checking out—especially the videos where he has the robots fight each other. Drones are flying in flocks and snapping together to form colonies—now we've got this rolling Transformer. You just might be looking at the future.