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The real (that’s right) Transformers

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Movies like “Terminator 2,” “Transformers” and soon-to-be-released “G.I. Joe,” all featuring shape-shifting robot machinery, are just sci-fi (and freaking cool, of course), right? Well, maybe not.

The Pentagon’s research division, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is currently in the second phase of a project designed to develop “programmable matter.” According to SIGNAL Online magazine, this stuff could shape itself into anything in order to accommodate any situation. Of course, it’s all for military purposes, the whole idea behind it is to help soldiers in combat zones work more efficiently in ever-changing and extremely fast paced situations.

Manager of seemingly science fiction program is Dr. Mitchell R. Zakin. In order to explain the idea of what would take place if this project does actually attain its goal of “Terminator 2” status, he gave an example of a solider needing a tool. All that solider would have to do is “command” a bucket of programmable matter to form, say, a wrench, and boom, there’s a wrench sitting in front of him. If the solider then needs a hammer, for example, he just says the magic word (hammer, maybe?) and the wrench “dissolves” to reform into a hammer.

Impressed yet? Wait, it gets better.

Other possible applications of this futuristic technology would be robots with the capability of reshaping themselves to adapt to specific jobs or conditions, aircraft wings that transform for more aerodynamic airflow, uniforms that alter their own densities and colorings according to certain environments (“Transformers”/“G.I. Joe” anyone?) and liquid metal robots that could stream through small cracks and openings (“Terminator 2”!?).

The science behind this idea depends on getting tiny particles of matter to independently organize themselves, Zakin explained.

Sounds so easy… And just when you were beginning to think that Xbox 360 was the height of current technology.

Brittany @ June 12, 2009

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