Innovators from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Media Lab have developed a snake-like robot that has an abstract line design that allows it to shape-shift to become just about anything, from a mobile phone to a wearable device.
Called LineFORM, the robot features a linear set of motors that are strung together and can move either together with the others or independently to create all different kinds of shapes for various purposes.
The technology could change the way we use devices, enabling for "new possibilities for display, interaction and body constraint."
Media Lab demoed LineFORM in a video that showcases the possibilities of its application. Shape-shifting before our eyes, the robot can coil around a wrist, which could then be used to send the use a notification by giving a little tap — kind of like a friendly pet nudging you to get your work completed.
The robot could also coil together in the shape of an "S" to create a 2D touch pad where the user could tap to dial before it expands and folds into a mobile phone.
The addition of a light to the end of LineFORM could create a tabletop lamp for reading, or when paired with a midi controller to connect to a laptop. It can also twist into a whole array of shapes to be used as a smart ruler to help students with their math homework.
Since the robot is flexible, yet rigid, it could be wrapped around a user's arm, which can be used for recording motion-capture videos and replaying a movement, or simply just make you feel like Iron Man.
The team at MIT Media Lab, which includes Ken Nakagaki, Sean Follmer and Hiroshi Ishii, revealed in a research paper that they have developed two versions, a large-scale 3D version and smaller 2D version.
"We envision LineFORM-style devices coupled with flexible displays as next generation mobile devices, which can display complex information, provide affordances on demand for different tasks, and constrain user interaction," the researchers write in the paper.
They hope that the shape-shifting robot will help others explore actuated curve interfaces to further develop innovative technology.
Source: MIT Media Lab