Progress continues on a Pentagon-backed fringe science project to develop matter that can assemble itself into 3D forms (such as weapons) and flow like mercury through barriers. We all know where this leads, don't we?
Wired's Danger Room blog rounds up the progress reports on the Programmable Matter project, in which teams at Harvard and MIT, backed by Pentagon research arm DARPA, are creating modular sheets and strands that can be programmed to fold themselves origami-style into shapes or build themselves into Lego-like solids. The project is already five months into its second phase, with a number of simple shape-shifting solids expected to be ready by next spring.
Meanwhile, Intel is doing its own Programmable Matter research, with the idea of creating hologram-like models for demonstration purposes, only the models would be physical objects that can be touched and manipulated.
The DARPA scientists are, of course, looking at the defense applications of this technology — morphing blobs of goo into instant weapons, building robots that can squeeze through barriers or tight spaces and then reassemble themselves. This may sound frighteningly close to Terminator territory, but the Intel app , with its suggestion of tactile virtual reality, implies a more hedonistic use for the technology. As with other Pentagon-spawned innovations (like, say, the Internet), what started as a military tool will probably end up as porn.