Transformable robots are already in the cards for the future of robotics. MIT, however, wants to go a step farther with machines that can shape-shift into just about anything you could imagine.
Developed at the university’s Center for Bits and Atoms, the milli-motein (shorthand for “millimeter-sized protein”) is designed to mimic the structure of protein chains. MIT has nicknamed its new motorized chains the Swiss army knife of robotics since the bots can reconfigure themselves into a theoretically infinite number of shapes.
Each milli-motein is basically a one-dimensional robot measuring one centimeter across that actuates itself using a metal strip and electromagnetic rings. The robot uses only a tiny amount of energy to power its custom-made electropermanent motor to rearrange itself, and it can hold its shape without using any current at all.
Currently the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT has only developed a four-segment milli-motein chain that’s strong enough to move the next module in the chain. The eventual goal of this research is to create a single robot that can literally change itself to complete any task, rather having an army of robots that can only complete one job.
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