Shape-shifting robot is ready to make you obsolete

New MIT robo-snake creation can record movement and form itself into everything from lamps and smart bands to an aid for physiotherapy

While it’s not quite the true coming of Skynet, the latest robotics project from scientists at the Michigan University of Technology is certainly aiming to put the heebie-jeebies up those with a fear of artificial intelligence takeovers. Say hello to the LineFORM.

The tech, which comes from MIT’s Tangible Media Lab, uses a series of linear motors that can stiffen to form dense structures or become flexible to form joints. It’s a pretty flexible stuff and can form everything from lamps to tactile smartphones and touchpads. More importantly, the nifty (and ever-so-slightly unnerving prototypes record movements and can replicate them move for move). Such a fact could make the tech potentially viable in the world of physiotherapy and muscle memory rehabilitation.

"We envisage LineFORM-style devices coupled with flexible displays as next-generation mobile devices," comments Sean Follmer, Ken Nagasaki and professor Hiroshi Ishii. "We have shown that a relatively small number of actuators can be used to achieve an expressive display ... our hope is that this work will motivate others to further explore the space."

Those still fearing the fabled rise of the machines can rest easy for now - LineFORM isn’t aiming for a commercial release, but it’s certainly got us intrigued as to the potentially uses of robotics in our day-to-day lives.