The real-life version of 'Terminator': This tiny shapeshifting robot "melts" to escape cages
Although magnetically controlled soft robots have been around, this oozing version may invoke new feelings of terror, with AI-dystopian characteristics that would be a hallmark of any movie involving the end of humankind.
Scientists say the Lego-shaped robot can “melt” from solid to liquid and reform itself to squeeze in and out of tight spaces, perform tasks like soldering a circuit board and even escape cages.
In a new study published January 25 in the journal Matter, scientists showed the incredible strength of this phase-shifting property, which can be controlled remotely with a magnetic field. It’s made from a mixture of magnetic materials including neodymium, iron, and boron, and the liquid metal gallium.
Researchers took inspiration from nature. A graphic in the article depicts sea cucumbers, for instance, which can rapidly and reversibly change its stiffness.
Most existing materials for these robots are able to enter delicate spaces like the human body because they are stretchy — but, because they are also solid, unable to pass through the narrowest of spaces.
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Additionally, magnetic liquids are fluid but unable to carry heavy objects — unlike this robot which can make itself sturdier and stronger when under pressure or when carrying something heavier than itself, the study said. A solid robot, about 50 milligrams (or less than an ounce), is able to carry about 30 times its own weight.
Camille Fine is a trending visual producer on USA TODAY's NOW team.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shapeshifting, liquid humanoid robot formed like a LEGO