WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Our ability to create robots that can shape shift and change their shape is a matter of when, not if, and we’re getting closer.
Between the US Pentagon’s use of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) to defend its critical systems from attack, DARPA’s proposal to build a global AI platform that monitors the whole world for threats, Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS robot that recently learned how to do Parkour, and Oxford University’s experiments to put 3D printed human skin onto robots, the 21st century is increasingly starting to resemble the prelude to James Cameron’s 1984 Terminator movies. Furthermore, combine it with new nascent Liquid Computing tech and, potentially, you have a robot that would make even science fiction writers tremble – another example of science fiction becoming science fact.
Now, keeping with the theme, a group of materials scientists from Beihang University in China have just published a paper detailing a polymorphic liquid metal compound that can be stretched and moved in 3D with magnets. The American Chemical Society (ACS) reports that the substance – called a Magnetic Liquid Metal Droplet, or MLMD for short, is an alloy made of Gallium, Indium and Tin infused with iron particles and submerged in Hydrochloric Acid.
And movie fans aren’t the only ones who recognize the potential of the material to create real life polymorphic robot Terminators like the T-1000.
“With all the appealing properties,” the scientists wrote, “this MLMD presents a fundamental and promising platform for the liquid metals to further develop the multi-freedom actuation in free space and eventually lead to the dynamically re-configurable intelligent and Bio-Mimetic soft robots in the future.”
Still not convinced? Then you haven’t watched the video… oh, and one other thing, the discovery could also open the door to re-configurable electronics, and that’s an entirely new ball game… it’s going to be fun!