Whoa – Terminator’s ability to melt down and reappear is not so much science fiction any more. This week MIT announced that it has developed a material that can be either rigid or soft depending on whether it is hot or cold and whether it is coated or uncoated.
This is a great example of how academic-industry collaborations can work well. The changeling-robot research was done by academics at MIT and industry professionals at Boston Dynamics. It was funded by the US government under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
They plan to build a robot that can heat up its own joints to change its shape. That way the robot could get into tight places where humans can’t fit – like a cat or an octopus. But there are so many other possibilities for this material. For example, it could be used to build a lab machine that could perform many different functions depending on how it was configured.
More info here.