reprint of: Drones very small to large The Original Article that this is a reprint of here at this blog likely was called "Drones very small to large". The very first article was compiled by me in 2013, then the reprint because of the continued interest was created in 2014.
The point being is that I find sometimes when I want to know more than any one article has to say, often I need to do my own research and then I figure I might as well share that research with you, so we all become a little more knowledgeable and smarter about things.
For me, it can be wonderful researching about interesting things I want to know about and sharing with all of you (to the tune now of 945,000 visits to my blog site so far).
Note: This must be a reprint because as of now I have had
Then you can if you wish go beyond the research I do here and possibly share your research with others too. This way we all become smarter and are more likely to survive whatever comes here on earth or beyond.
My thoughts on programmable matter so far. My first thought is that as long as whatever programmable matter only programs itself it might not be as much of a problem for life on earth. However, programmable matter that changes other matter on earth outside of itself could become somewhat of a problem over time. Imagine if someone developed (self programmable matter) that had the knowledge of a single human being? What would this self aware? programmable matter create? This is unknown at present. So, it might be better if people did the programming rather than making self determining programmable matter to see what it would do. It could be sort of like letting grizzly bears loose to roam the countryside freely near cities or maybe crocodiles or African Elephants. Only people might at first have absolutely no idea what they were dealing with at first until it was too late.
If you think I'm wrong just read "Help! My chair has a virus" at the bottom of this web page written by an actual researcher in this field.
- History. Programmable matter is a term originally coined in 1991 by Toffoli and Margolus to refer to an ensemble of fine-grained computing elements arranged in space ...
- May 26, 2014 · Feature Robotics; Robot Sensors & Actuators; Make Your Own World With Programmable Matter People will conjure objects as easily as we now play ...
Programmable matterFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaProgrammable matter is matter which has the ability to change its physical properties (shape, density, moduli, conductivity, optical properties, etc.) in a programmable fashion, based upon user input or autonomous sensing. Programmable matter is thus linked to the concept of a material which inherently has the ability to perform information processing.
- 1 History
- 2 Approaches to programmable matter
- 3 Examples of programmable matter
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
HistoryProgrammable matter is a term originally coined in 1991 by Toffoli and Margolus to refer to an ensemble of fine-grained computing elements arranged in space (Toffoli & Margolus 1991). Their paper describes a computing substrate that is composed of fine-grained compute nodes distributed throughout space which communicate using only nearest neighbor interactions. In this context, programmable matter refers to compute models similar to cellular automata and lattice gas automata (Rothman & Zaleski 1997). The CAM-8 architecture is an example hardware realization of this model. This function is also known as "digital referenced areas" (DRA) in some forms of self-replicating machine science.
In the early 1990s, there was a significant amount of work in reconfigurable modular robotics with a philosophy similar to programmable matter.
As semiconductor technology, nanotechnology, and self-replicating machine technology have advanced, the use of the term programmable matter has changed to reflect the fact that it is possible to build an ensemble of elements which can be "programmed" to change their physical properties in reality, not just in simulation. Thus, programmable matter has come to mean "any bulk substance which can be programmed to change its physical properties."
In the summer of 1998, in a discussion on artificial atoms and programmable matter, Wil McCarthy and G. Snyder coined the term "quantum wellstone" (or simply "wellstone") to describe this hypothetical but plausible form of programmable matter. McCarthy has used the term in his fiction.
In 2002, Seth Goldstein and Todd Mowry started the claytronics project at Carnegie Mellon University to investigate the underlying hardware and software mechanisms necessary to realize programmable matter.
In 2004, the DARPA Information Science and Technology group (ISAT) examined the potential of programmable matter. This resulted in the 2005–2006 study "Realizing Programmable Matter", which laid out a multi-year program for the research and development of programmable matter.
In 2007, programmable matter was the subject of a DARPA research solicitation and subsequent program.
Approaches to programmable matter
There are many proposed implementations of programmable matter. Scale is one key differentiator between different forms of programmable matter. At one end of the spectrum reconfigurable modular robotics pursues a form of programmable matter where the individual units are in the centimeter size range. At the nanoscale end of the spectrum there are a tremendous number of different bases for programmable matter, ranging from shape changing molecules to quantum dots. Quantum dots are in fact often referred to as artificial atoms. In the micrometer to sub-millimeter range examples include MEMS-based units, cells created using synthetic biology, and the utility fog concept.
An important sub-group of Programmable Matter are Robotic Materials, which combine the structural aspects of a composite with the affordances offered by tight integration of sensors, actuators, computation and communication, while foregoing reconfiguration by particle motion.
Examples of programmable matterThere are many conceptions of programmable matter, and thus many discrete avenues of research using the name. Below are some specific examples of programmable matter.
"Simple" programmable matterThese include materials that can change their properties based on some input, but do not have the ability to do complex computation by themselves.
Complex fluidsMain article: Complex fluidsThe physical properties of several complex fluids can be modified by applying a current or voltage, as is the case with liquid crystals.
MetamaterialsMain article: MetamaterialsMetamaterials are artificial composites that can be controlled to react in ways that do not occur in nature. One example developed by David Smith and then by John Pendry and David Schuri is of a material that can have its index of refraction tuned so that it can have a different index of refraction at different points in the material. If tuned properly this could result in an "invisibility cloak."
A further example of programmable -mechanical- metamaterial is presented by Bergamini et al. Here, a pass band within the phononic bandgap is introduced, by exploiting variable stiffness of piezoelectric elements linking aluminum stubs to the aluminum plate to create a phononic crystal as in the work of Wu et al. The piezoelectric elements are shunted to ground over synthetic inductors. Around the resonance frequency of the LC circuit formed by the piezoelectric and the inductors, the piezoelectric elements exhibit near zero stiffness, thus effectively disconnecting the stubs from the plate. This is considered an example of programmable mechanical metamaterial.
Shape-changing moleculesAn active area of research is in molecules that can change their shape, as well as other properties, in response to external stimuli. These molecules can be used individually or en masse to form new kinds of materials. For example, J Fraser Stoddart's group at UCLA has been developing molecules that can change their electrical properties.
Electropermanent magnetsMain article: Electropermanent magnetAn electropermanent magnet is a type of magnet which consists of both an electromagnet and a dual material permanent magnet, in which the magnetic field produced by the electromagnet is used to change the magnetization of the permanent magnet. The permanent magnet consists of magnetically hard and soft materials, of which only the soft material can have its magnetization changed. When the magnetically soft and hard materials have opposite magnetizations the magnet has no net field, and when they are aligned the magnet displays magnetic behaviour.
They allow creating controllable permanent magnets where the magnetic effect can be maintained without requiring a continuous supply of electrical energy. For these reasons, electropermanent magnets are essential components of the research studies aiming to build programmable magnets that can give rise to self-building structures.
Self-reconfiguring modular roboticsMain article: Self-reconfiguring modular robotSelf-Reconfiguring Modular Robotics is a field of robotics in which a group of basic robot modules work together to dynamically form shapes and create behaviours suitable for many tasks. Like Programmable matter SRCMR aims to offer significant improvement to any kind of objects or system by introducing many new possibilities for example: 1. Most important is the incredible flexibility that comes from the ability to change the physical structure and behavior of a solution by changing the software that controls modules. 2. The ability to self-repair by automatically replacing a broken module will make SRCMR solution incredibly resilient. 3. Reducing the environmental foot print by reusing the same modules in many different solutions. Self-Reconfiguring Modular Robotics enjoys a vibrant and active research community.
ClaytronicsMain article: ClaytronicsClaytronics is an emerging field of engineering concerning reconfigurable nanoscale robots ('claytronic atoms', or catoms) designed to form much larger scale machines or mechanisms. The catoms will be sub-millimeter computers that will eventually have the ability to move around, communicate with other computers, change color, and electrostatically connect to other catoms to form different shapes.
Cellular automataMain article: Cellular automataCellular automata are a useful concept to abstract some of the concepts of discrete units interacting to give a desired overall behavior.
Quantum wellsMain article: Quantum wellQuantum wells can hold one or more electrons. Those electrons behave like artificial atoms which, like real atoms, can form covalent bonds, but these are extremely weak. Because of their larger sizes, other properties are also widely different.
Synthetic biologyMain article: Synthetic biologySynthetic biology is a field that aims to engineer cells with "novel biological functions." Such cells are usually used to create larger systems (e.g., biofilms) which can be "programmed" utilizing synthetic gene networks such as genetic toggle switches, to change their color, shape, etc. Such bioinspired approaches to materials production has been demonstrated, using self-assembling bacterial biofilm materials that can be programmed for specific functions, such as substrate adhesion, nanoparticle templating, and protein immobilization.
- Smart material
- Utility fog
- Ubiquitous computing
- Universal Turing machine
- "CAM8: a Parallel, Uniform, Scalable Architecture for Cellular Automata Experimentation". Ai.mit.edu. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
- Nguyen, Peter (Sep 17, 2014). "Programmable biofilm-based materials from engineered curli nanofibres". Nature Communications 5: 4945. doi:10.1038/ncomms5945. PMID 25229329.
- Goldstein, Seth Copen; Campbell, Jason; Mowry, Todd C. (June 2005). "Programmable Matter". IEEE Computer 38 (6): 99–101. doi:10.1109/MC.2005.198.
- McCarthy, Wil (2006). "Programmable Matter FAQ".
- McCarthy, Wil (2003). Hacking Matter: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, and the Infinite Weirdness of Programmable Atoms. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-04428-X.
- Rothman, D.H.; Zaleski, S. (2004) . Lattice Gas Cellular Automata. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521607605.
- Toffoli, Tommaso; Margolus, Norman (1991). "Programmable matter: concepts and realization". Physica D 47: 263–272. doi:10.1016/0167-2789(91)90296-L.
- Yim, Mark; Shen, Wei-Min; Salemi, Behnam; Rus, Daniela; Moll, Mark; Lipson, Hod; Klavins, Eric; Chirikjian, Gregory (March 2007). "Modular Self-Reconfigurable Robot Systems". IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine 14 (1): 43. doi:10.1109/MRA.2007.339623.
- "Boston University's Programmable Matter Group".
- "Synthetic Biology at Boston University".
- "Claytronics Project at Carnegie Mellon University".
- "Robotic Materials at CU Boulder".
- "Universally Programmable Intelligent Matter Project".
- "DARPA (US Military) Programmable Matter Thrust".
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Make Your Own World With Programmable Matter
People will conjure objects as easily as we now play music or movies
Several executives listen attentively to a sharp-suited sales rep making his pitch. Suddenly, a miniature car emerges from a vat of gray goop in the center of the conference table. The salesman proceeds to reshape this model using nothing more than his hands, flattening the car’s roofline and adjusting the geometry of its headlamps. Finally, he transforms the car from its initial haze gray to fire-engine red, its “atoms” twinkling in close-up with Disney-movie magic as their color changes.
Yes, it’s just a video done with special effects. But it comes from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, who are developing technology intended to enable not just the instant creation of complex objects—far beyond what today’s 3-D printing can achieve—but also their transfiguration on command.
Such a capability could change society even more profoundly than the Internet has. If this magical morphable matter were cheap and effective, it would allow us to send and download copies of objects as easily as we do digital documents. We could duplicate an object and then reshape it to our whims. Even if the technology turns out to be too expensive or the objects too fragile to replace conventionally manufactured goods, it might still allow people to summon up a facsimile of the thing they desire long enough to test it out, try it on, redesign it, or be entertained by it—with no more effort than it now takes to view a digital movie or play an MP3 file.
But do such wild notions bear any relation to what might actually be possible over, say, the next 50 years? To get a sense of the answer, it’s helpful first to look back a quarter century or so to the roots of this audacious concept.
In 1991, MIT computer scientists Tommaso Toffoli and Norman Margolus speculated in print about a collection of small computers arranged so that they could communicate with their immediate neighbors while carrying out computations in parallel. A large number of such computing nodes would together constitute “programmable matter,” according to Toffoli and Margolus. They were talking only about a highly parallel modular computer, one that might simulate the physics of real matter. But soon others applied this same term to a far more ambitious idea: an assembly of tiny robotic computers that could rearrange themselves to take on varying forms.
The chemistry Nobel laureate Jean-Marie Lehn independently developed related ideas even earlier, but coming from a different direction. He and others argued that chemists would use the principles of self-organization to design molecules imbued with the information they needed to spontaneously assemble themselves into complex structures. In the 1980s, Lehn began calling this “informed matter,” which would be a kind of programmable matter constructed at the atomic and molecular scale.
The last decade or so of research in nanotechnology—with its interest in “bottom-up” self-organizing systems—has lent increasing support to Lehn’s ideas. But creating molecules that can assemble into complex and even responsive forms is one thing; designing systems made from tiny computers that will reconfigure themselves into whatever you want at the push of a button is a whole other kind of challenge. For that, it’s the engineers who are now taking the lead.
The shrinking of power sources and circuitry for wireless communications now allows robots, even centimeter-size ones, to talk to one another easily. And making miniature machines that can change shape or orientation without requiring delicate moving parts is increasingly practical, thanks to the development of smart materials that respond to external stimuli by bending or expanding, for example.
In short, in the three decades since the basic ideas of programmable matter were first formulated, the technologies needed to create concrete examples have arrived and are actively being tinkered with.
Seth Goldstein and his team at Carnegie Mellon, in collaboration with others at Intel Research Pittsburgh, were among the first to put together prototypes and explore possible applications.
Goldstein and his colleagues envision millions of cooperating robot modules, each perhaps no bigger than a dust grain, together mimicking the look and feel of just about anything. They hope that one day these smart particles—dubbed claytronics—will be able to produce a synthetic reality that you’ll be able to touch and experience without donning fancy goggles or gloves. From a lump of claytronic goop, you’ll be able to summon any prop you want: a coffee cup, a scalpel, or (as their promotional video illustrates) a model automobile to use in a sales presentation.
“Any form of programmable matter that can pass the Turing test for appearance [looking indistinguishable from the real thing] will enable an entire new way of thinking about the world,” says Goldstein. He also entertains the notion that objects built from programmable matter could be fully functional, in which case the possibilities for this technology become so limitless as to boggle the mind. “Applications like injectable surgical instruments, morphable cellphones, and 3-D interactive life-size TV are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Goldstein.
The Carnegie Mellon team calls the components of this stuff “catoms,” short for claytronic atoms, tiny spherical robots that are able to move, stick together, communicate, and compute their location in relation to others. Making them is a tall order, especially if you need millions. But Goldstein thinks it’s achievable.
Since the early 2000s, he and his fellow Pittsburgh researchers have been building modest approximations of their ultimate goal. The first prototypes were squat cylinders, each a little bigger than a D-cell battery, their edges lined with rows of electromagnets, which allowed them to stick to one another and form two-dimensional patterns. By turning various magnets on and off in sequence, the researchers could make one catom crawl around another. More recently, the team used photolithography to build cylindrical catoms about a millimeter in diameter, which can receive power, communicate, and adhere. These tiny catoms can’t yet move, but they will soon, Goldstein promises.
The key challenge is not in manufacturing the circuits but in programming the massively distributed system that will result from putting all the units together, says Goldstein. Rather than drawing up a global blueprint, the researchers hope to use a set of local rules, whereby each catom needs to know only the positions of its immediate neighbors. Properly programmed, the ensemble will then find the right configuration through an emergent process.
Some living organisms seem to work this way. The single-celled slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum, for example, aggregates into a multicellular body when under duress, without any central brain to plan its dramatic transformation or subsequent coordinated movements.
For catoms to do that, they must first be able to communicate with one another, if not also with a distant controller. The Carnegie Mellon researchers are now exploring electrostatic nearest-neighbor sensing and radio technologies for remote control.
Of course, to be practical, the repositioning of catoms needs to happen fast. Goldstein and his colleagues think that an efficient way to produce shape changes might be to fill the initial blob of catoms with lots of little voids and then shift them around to achieve the right contours. Small local movements of adjacent catoms would be sufficient to shift the cavities, and if they are allowed to bubble to the surface, the overall volume would shrink. Conversely, the material could expand by opening up pockets at the surface and engulfing them.
At MIT, the computer scientist Daniela Rus and her collaborators have a different view of how smart, sticky grains could reproduce an object. Their “smart sand” would be a heap of such grains that stick together selectively to form the target object. The unused grains would just fall away.
Like Goldstein, Rus and her colleagues have so far built only rather large prototypes—“smart pebbles”—that work in two dimensions, not three. These units are the size of sugar cubes, with built-in microprocessors and electromagnets on four faces. A set of cubes can duplicate a shape inserted into the midst of a group of them. The ones that border the target object recognize that they are next to it and send signals to a collection of other cubes elsewhere to replicate its shape.
Rus’s team hit on an ingenious way to make smart grains move, demonstrating the strategy using larger cubes they call M-blocks, which are 5 centimeters on a side. Each uses the momentum of flywheels spinning at up to 20 000 rotations per minute to roll over, climb on top of one another, and even leap through the air. When they come into contact, the blocks can be magnetically attached to form the desired configuration. At the moment, the experimenters must provide the instructions for sticking together. Their plan, though, is to develop algorithms that allow the cubes themselves to decide when they need to hook up.
The researchers’ ultimate aim is to create a system of modules the size of sand grains that can form arbitrary structures with a variety of material properties, all on demand. Shrinking today’s robotic pebbles and blocks to the submillimeter scale presents an enormous technical challenge, but it’s not unreasonable to imagine that advances in microelectromechanical systems might allow for such miniaturization a few decades from now. That would then allow someone to instantly reproduce a facsimile of just about any object—depending on what it is, maybe even one that functions as well as the original.
While the holy grail is a sea of tiny machines working together to perform such magic, Goldstein sees the basic ideas of programmable matter being applied to objects at all scales, from atoms to house bricks, or perhaps even larger. It’s almost a philosophy: a determination among today’s researchers to make their creations more intelligent, more obedient, and more sensitive, imbuing them with qualities that will eventually make them act almost like living things—like matter with a mind of its own.
This article originally appeared in print as “Infinitely Malleable Materials.”