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 science of claytronics, which will use nanotechnology to create robots called catoms, should enable 3D copies of people to be “faxed” 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.
The nano “clay” could be carried around, shape-shifting into anything when required. Your claytronic mobile phone could turn into a hammer and then a pair of running shoes. Todd Mowry, at Intel’s research labs in Pittsburgh 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, Seth Goldstein, of Carnegie Mellon University, said: “It’s absolutely going to work.”
Not a single such robot yet exists; building these one-millimeter diameter robots is beyond current technology. And it could be decades before a synthetic doctor is possible, much less affordable. So far, the group has been able to get four catoms to act together, but at more than 4cm in diameter, they are considerably larger than the nano-sized robots required to make the clay.