In science fiction and, there is a common trope: the shape shifter. Whether it is the alien Skrull race in Marvel comics that can take any form and infiltrate our government, or the magical polyjuice potion in the Harry Potter universe that allows child wizards to sneak around where they do not belong, shapeshifting is a big part of fiction. It’s not limited to humans and aliens, either. We are all aware of those Autobots and Decepticons, who can change their form from robot to vehicle in the blink of an eye. But that is fiction, right? We could never see such a robot in real life, could we?
Don’t tell that to the folks at MIT have created a robot that can change form. It’s not quite on the level of Optimus Prime, and it certainly won’t be replacing a top government official just yet, but it is a nice piece of engineering. The little bugger, dubbed the milli-motein, looks a bit like a coil of copper wire and is about the size of a caterpillar.
The robot is inspired by protein molecules boasts an electropermanent motor. This motor has two magnets of differing strengths that can serve as an electromagnet. It can hold its shape even after it is turned off.
“[The robot] is effectively a one-dimensional robot that can be made in a continuous strip, without conventionally moving parts, and then folded into arbitrary shapes,” said MIT’s Head of Center for Bits and Atoms Neil Gershenfeld, who recently published a paper describing the robot.
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Edited by Rich Steeves