Scientists unveil 'clay' robots that will shape our world
TINY robots that can turn into any shape - from a replica human to a banana to a mobile phone - are being developed by scientists in the United States.
The new science of claytronics, which will use nanotechnology to create tiny robots called catoms, should enable three-dimensional copies of people to be "faxed" around the world for virtual meetings.
A doctor could also consult with a patient over the phone, even taking their pulse by holding the wrist of the claytronic replica, reports New Scientist.
And the nano "clay" could be carried around, shape-shifting into virtually anything when required. Your claytronic mobile phone could turn into a hammer for a spot of DIY and then a pair of shoes to go jogging. The creator, Dr Todd Mowry, director of Intel's research labs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said: "You could have a little lump of this stuff you carry around and it could be a million different things. It's like the world's ultimate Swiss army knife." His partner, Dr Seth Goldstein, of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said: "It's absolutely going to work."
Intel's robotics expert, Jason Campbell, added: "The more you look at it, the more likely it seems we will be able to manufacture these things.
"I think there's a good chance we'll get to see it. Now whether that's five or 20 years, I don't know."
However, progress been slow. So far, the group has been able to get four catoms - or claytronic atoms - to act together, but at more than 4cm in diameter, they are considerably larger than the nano-sized robots required to make the clay.
But the problem of power supply has been solved. It has to be external, as the nanorobots would be too small to carry their own power pack.
Dr Goldstein is now working on designs for catoms about the size of a marbles and expects to be able to achieve some interesting behaviour when hundreds of these are combined.
"That'll be a huge step forward," he said.
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