Posted: November 22, 2007

Nanotechnology powered programmable matter could create 3-D representations of almost any object

(Nanowerk News) Here is a visionary project from the claytronics team at Carnegie Mellon to tickle your mind during Turkey Day.
This project combines modular robotics, systems nanotechnology and computer science to create the dynamic, 3-Dimensional display of electronic information.
Imagine a lump of clay which comprises hundreds of thousands of microscopic particles. Each particle contains a computer that enables all of them to move together and form representations of objects and even people in three-dimensional space. This is claytronics, an amazing new technology for the display of information, being created at Carnegie Mellon University.
Claytronics, the physical representation of computer-generated objects, will add active sensory experience to the use of electronic information. The user will engage with a display that presents tangible, supple surfaces that have a realistic appearance of the object or individual that is the original source of the information. The objects created from this medium will be scalable to life size or larger. They will be capable of continuous motion. Such objects will offer a mode of communication that users will accept as indistinguishable from reality. Claytronic representations will seem so real that users will experience the impression that they are dealing with the original object rather than its representation.
Claytronic emulation of the function, behavior and appearance of individuals, organisms and objects will fully mimic reality.
The physical operation of claytronic devices will come from the performance of a single tiny spherical module known as the claytronic atom – or catom – working in ensembles of hundreds of thousands or millions of catoms. Each of these devices will be less than 1-mm in diameter – the size of particles of sand. They will operate together as a sophisticated and versatile electronic clay or programmable matter to form synthetic objects of many dimensions and functions.
Developing this tiny, complex device – an operating catom – is thus the goal of hardware design in the claytronics lab. Although the device is tiny, the scale of the challenge is enormous. Those who create it work at the edge of some of the most exciting frontiers in the design and manufacture of the hardware used in systems nanotechnology.
Each sphere-shaped catom will be able to compute, actuate, manage power and communicate. These attributes will enable millions of catoms to work together in ensembles that will acquire the shapes and reproduce the actions of much larger objects.
If the Carnegie Mellon team succeeds in developing claytronics, the future of information technology will be tangible, interactive forms of information so that a user's senses will experience digital environments as though they are indistinguishable from reality.
Source: Carnegie Mellon
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