Robotics has come a long way in the past few years. They're quicker, smaller, stronger and more capable than they've ever been — we're starting to scratch at the sci-fi future filled with advanced robotic companions.

As a result, it's time to start introducing robots into mainstream society: if the next generation will be living alongside these machines every day, it's probably best to acclimate them early, right?

That's the idea behind a new robotic playground being developed in London. When at rest, the Morph (or Mobile Reconfigurable Polyhedra) looks like almost any other piece of playground equipment — but it's far more than just another jungle gym. Using a series of sensors, hydraulic cylinders and a constantly-changing center of gravity, the Morph can actually move around on its own.

It may seem bizarre at first, but the Morph serves a dual purpose: not only does it provide a dynamic environment for kids to play with, but it serves as a gentle introduction to robotics for younger generations.

Morph is being developed at the Interactive Architecture Lab, which is part of the larger Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. While the first version is still being tested in public spaces, the team behind Morphs is already working on a second prototype and acquiring the funding for a third: the 2.0 model focuses on upping the mobile frame's size and strength, while the third will be designed to refine the Morph's wireless communication capabilities and internal tech.

Basically, the Morph moves around by expanding and retracting its hydraulic struts. It's not exactly quick on its feet, but that's by design: the Morph's movements are supposed to be predictable, and the slow speed should give anyone (including young children) more than enough time to react to any movement or change in direction.

The outer frame is also covered in a number of different sensors — those aren't tennis balls sticking out of the struts. These sensors can detect if someone is trying to push or play on the Morph, or if it's simply bumping into an object. The Morph also houses a GPS tracking system — once a designated play area is set up, the Morph will stay within it (no one wants to try and catch a runaway robot).

It's an interesting idea: robots are advancing at an extremely fast pace, and there's a good chance that it won't be long before they're a part of everyday life. By introducing kids to a gentle, play-friend robot at such a young age, they'll be far more acclimated to their presence than anyone else — in a way, the Morph could help future-proof the next generation.

For more on Morph, the technology behind it and future versions, head over to the project's official site.

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