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Intel: Shape-Shifting Robots Closer to Reality

Researchers at both Intel and Carnegie Mellon University believe that real-world transformers are in the near future, or rather, are closer to reality. In fact, Intel's chief technology officer said last year that the gap between human and artificial intelligence should close by the year 2050. For now however, humans will only need to worry about robots that can take different shapes.

Computerworld reports that scientists are using distributed computing and robotics to make the shape-shifting machines. The "transformers" consist of millions of millimeter-sized robots, enabled through electromagnetic forces and software that allows them to form into various shapes. The researchers call its collective not the Borg, but "programmable matter" called Claytronics; the individual robots are Catoms.

"It's been pretty hard but we've made a lot of progress," said Jason Campbell, a senior staff research scientist at Intel's research lab in Pittsburgh. "Optimistically, we could see this in three to five years. It will take us longer.... We're not there yet, but we see a path."

Campbell said that each Catom will have its own processor. The overall collective can be programmed to work together like a swarm of bees. Currently the researchers are working on a way to program the "programmable matter" on a whole rather than by individual Catom.

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