T1000 - liquid metal robot
On the request issued by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), scientists are working on shape-shifting robots, bots that can “maneuver through openings smaller than their static structural dimensions.” These chembots would be like rats, which can squeeze their way into areas smaller than their actual size. Researchers are working to create swarms of microscopic robots capable of morphing into virtually any form by clinging together. The liquid metal robot will be robots use electromagnetic forces to move themselves, communicate, and will even share power.
A morphing robot designed by iRobot has no rigid structure but uses some type of inflation system for locomotion. The inflation is a substance in the skin that can be converted from liquid-like state to solid one. They call this “The Jamming Concept”. These small robots can also glob together into one thing.
Scientists have also taken first step towards “Transformers”-style shape-shifting cars and aircraft, with a robot that can fold itself like origami into different forms. At the moment the tiny robot – a sheet just half a millimeter thick, scarcely thicker than a piece of paper – only folds itself into a boat, like a child’s toy, or a “paper glider” plane shape. But it is anticipated that in future it will be used to create full-sized cars and aircraft that morph as they move, or robots that can “flow” like mercury into small openings, or multipurpose military uniforms that can adapt to different environments. The robot is a small sheet of stiff tiles and “joints” of elastomer, “studded with thin foil actuators and flexible electronics. A shape is produced by triggering the proper actuator groups in sequence. The robot has four distinct stages in its shape-shifting.
First, an algorithm creates a model of the 3-D shape it is to become, and it reverse-engineers the folding paths required to get there. A second algorithm produces a plan telling each individual tile how and when to fold to match those paths. The third algorithm receives each of the individual plans and assembles them onto one sheet. Finally, the fourth algorithm chooses the optimum arrangement to minimize either the number of actuators or number of actuator groups.