Robots With Rimless Wheels, Bruce Sterling Style

I just finished reading Heavy Weather, by Bruce Sterling. A good read, even though I think he's being a bit alarmist about the near-term consequences of global warming. One of the pieces of technology that appears in the book is a car with rimless wheels that can adjust the length of the spokes to drive over rocky terrain or even hop over large obstacles. Well, today I read on robots.net that someone's designed a robot with exactly that style of wheel! They call them "whegs." I'm not sure about how I feel about that name, since it sounds too much like "eggy weggies."

I fully expect that one of our readers will know of an earlier reference to robots with rimless wheels of this type. Post in the comments or send me email and I'll update the post. Gotta love having other people do your homework for you!

Update: Josh Heath points out that Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash had a skateboard with these kind of wheels. They were called "smart wheels." Now that he mentions it, I do remember the skateboard. I need to reread Snow Crash.

Share this

Dunno about robots with

Dunno about robots with wheels like this, but didn't Snow Crash have skateboards and motorcycles with wheels like this?

bq. Dunno about robots with

bq. Dunno about robots with wheels like this, but didn’t Snow Crash have skateboards and motorcycles with wheels like this?

I don't have a copy of Snow Crash to check, but I wouldn't be surprised. Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson seem to influence one another heavily. Actually, does anyone know if the influence is bidirectional or if one has influenced the other more? I read Distraction just before Heavy Weather and it seems like a very similar story to Snow Crash, though Snow Crash came out several years earlier.

"Dunno about robots with

"Dunno about robots with wheels like this, but didn’t Snow Crash have skateboards and motorcycles with wheels like this?"

The skateboard had wheels like that. Smart wheels, they were called. There were infinitesimal spokes on each wheel that anticipated the coming environment through radar, if I remember correctly. It meant that it could slide over debris on the highway, suburban lawns, and human beings like butter.