MIT’s Media Lab has created a lot of cool project over the years. Now they have introduced another amazing product in the form of LineFORM, a shape shifting robot that can change between flexibility and rigidity depending on the need.
Giving the device these unique abilities are a series of actuators, which move independently, but can also work together to form different shapes. You can either provide direct input to the device and force it to bend to your will, or you can let it receive instructions from somewhere else and represent them for you.
In order to showcase what the possible uses for such a technology could be, the people at MIT released a video demonstration of the robot completing different actions. In this video, they showcased it’s ability for display, interaction and body restraint.
For the first demonstration, the device wrapped itself around the wrist of a person, acting as a smartwatch. When it received a notification, it unwrapped itself from one corner and tapped the wrist of the wearer to indicate a pending notification via haptic technology.
It then formed a compact rigid structure, like that of a smartphone so that the wearer could dial a number. When the number was dialed, it then changed into the form of a landline phone receiver, so that you could hold it to your ear and talk like you would on a regular phone.
From there, the video moved to a demonstration of it’s intractability with other modules. When connected with a light bulb, it immediately changed into a lamp shape, along with a 3D dimmer switch. When connected to a device for data transfer, it started creating waves as a representation of the data being moved.
In a similar yet even more interactive demonstration, it acted as dynamic ruler, who’s shape could be changed according to your needs. All these different uses showcased how fluid and seamless the device is in it’s interactions. Seeing all these uses, it becomes clear how much use could be squeezed out of just one such device, if it was used to construct a personal usage device.
Last but not the least, they showcased it’s ability to act as a body restraint, become rigid at some angles and flexible at others. While this may not seem useful for day to day purposes, but it could prove very valuable in training simulations. The teacher could record certain body movements using the device, which can then be replayed by the student, who receives constant feedback on what the proper form should be without the need of another person spelling it out.
While the technology is only a proof of concept so far, it doesn’t take a visionary to realize all the potential real world applications for it. As this field is explored further, we will without a doubt come closer to a truly modular future in technology.