It’s been a few years since we posted an update on the DARPA Programmable Matter program. They’ve been funding a project at the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms. The result is the Milli-Motein, a self-folding chain of one-centimeter robotic modules based on proteins and powered by newly invented Electropermanent Wobble Stepper Motor. The resulting 4 segments long prototype can transform from a straight line into any desired shape in 5 seconds. According to the researchers at MIT:
“The Milli-Motein is functional as programmable matter, able to reconfigure itself into several shapes on command. As far as we know, it is the highest-resolution chain-type programmable matter system built to date.”
At present, the Milli-Moteins can barely lift their own weight. So they are still a long way from Transformers or liquid metal Terminators but they still show some amazing potential. Just compare today’s news to our story on DARPA’s 2009 Programmable Matter milestone. You can learn more about the Milli-Motein project from the original research paper, Programmable Assembly with Universally Foldable Strings (Moteins) (PDF format) and from the more recent paper describing in great detail the Milli-Motein hardware and functionality, The Milli-Motein: A Self-Folding Chain of Programmable Matter with a One Centimeter Module Pitch (PDF format). Read on to see video of the Milli-Moteins in action as well graphics of the Wobble Motor design and an exploded diagram of a single Motein.
Diagram of the Wobble Motor that powers the Moteins.
Exploded diagram of a single Motein