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On a Roll.
“Now what we’re going to try to do is hook it up in a loop,” says Yim, tearing apart the lizard and reconstructing the snake. He then joins the snake’s ends, and the modules sense that “each one has a neighbor on both its head and its tail, and there’s no end, and therefore it’s a loop.” Yim places the loop on the table, where it steamrolls over a tape recorder. Though it appears that all the modules are working together, “There are actually only four modules running their motors at one time,” Yim notes. “No matter how many modules we have in the loop, it would still just be four. The inactive motors can be turned off to save power and to keep them from fighting each other. And with the motors off, the modules are looser, so they bend and conform to the terrain the loop covers. With more modules in the loop it could do things like climb on stairs and take the shape of the steps.”

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