the churning edge of now

We haven’t posted much about DARPA for the past couple of years, but these two programs are pretty startling.

Chemical Robots from Darpa

During military operations it can be important to gain covert access to denied or hostile space. Unmanned platforms such as mechanical robots are of limited effectiveness if the only available points of entry are small openings.

The goal of the Chemical Robots (ChemBots) Program is to create a new class of soft, flexible, mesoscale mobile objects that can identify and maneuver through openings smaller than their dimensions and perform various tasks.

Liek, whoa.

But hey, take another hit on the crack pipe, and hold on.

Meet Darpa’s programmable matter project

A revolutionary new technology may allow future warfighters to command their equipment to physically change itself to meet new operational needs or to form spare parts or tools. Researchers are developing techniques to order materials to self-assemble or alter their shape, perform a function and then disassemble themselves. These capabilities offer the possibility for morphing aircraft and ground vehicles, uniforms that can alter themselves to be comfortable in any climate, and “soft” robots that flow like mercury through small openings to enter caves and bunker complexes.

Zakin envisions programmable matter in this way: In the future a soldier will have something that looks like a paint can in the back of his vehicle. The can is filled with particles of varying sizes, shapes and capabilities. These individual bits can be small computers, ceramics, biological systems—potentially anything the user wants them to be. The soldier needs a wrench of a specific size. He broadcasts a message to the container, which causes the particles to automatically form the wrench. After the wrench has been used, the soldier realizes that he needs a hammer. He puts the wrench back into the can where it disassembles itself back into its components and re-forms into a hammer. “That is the essence of programmable matter,” he says.

Exhale the smoke.


The future is going to be weirder than anyone can imagine.

2 Responses to “the churning edge of now”

  1.   michael
    August 27th, 2009 | 7:17 pm

    Holy shit

  2.   bruce
    August 27th, 2009 | 11:11 pm

    Cool! Imagine the possibilities for contraband… you just need the code to get your can of paint to do whatever you want…