Gird your loins and tell your kids you love them: The era of the shape-shifting robot is upon us.
Yesterday, iRobot–the company better known for making the Roomba and the Army’s bomb-diffusing robots–revealed its prototype for a shape-shifting, blob-like machine. It’s intended to squeeze through tiny openings, whereupon it will eat your heart and deliver the Apocalypse.
The “Chembot,” whose research is being funded by DARPA, is basically an outer skin, composed of several silicon sacks, which turn rigid or liquidlike, depending on whether they’re inflated. That skin surrounds a fluid core, which itself has another inflatable bladder. When portions of the skin and the interior bladder are both inflated, that creates bulges in the outer skin. Using that trick, the Chembot can change its shape and propel itself, through a rolling motion.
Apparently, the video above shows the robot as of a year ago. Currently, iRobot is developing the concept to include sensors, and the ability to merge with other Chembots. Here’s an artist’s rendering of that R&D process: