I bet there’s still a long way down until we see Optimus Prime waltzing down the street, but little steps are better than nothing, right? Scientists as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a small robot that can actually change its shape. In order to copy molecules that fold themselves in various shapes, this robot uses magnets. Admittedly, there’s still a long way to go, but if enough of work is done, then in the future shape-shifting robots can be used to perform different tasks, as they would be reconfigured over and over again.
The robot itself looks very simple, and its main perk is that it can be folded into different shapes from one continuous strip without any moving parts. The shape can be acquired because the robot has a so-called “electro-permanent” motor. Since the robot has pairs of powerful and weaker magnets and the magnetic field changes direction once an electric current is applied, the robot moves when magnetic fields add up or cancel each other out.
According to Jeremy Pitt, who is the deputy head of the Intelligent Systems and Networks Group at Imperial College London, right not the most interesting part will be the research between two groups of robot makers: “There is going to be an interesting research race between groups trying to create reconfigurable structures out of such chains and those trying to build them out of independent self-assembling units.”
I doubt that we’re gonna see real transformers as we imagine them within my lifetime, but hey, at least we’re going somewhere, aren’t we?