Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Intel Research have made some real progress on a thrilling set of technologies which could change the way we interact in the future. The Claytronics’s project is aimed to give tangible, interactive forms to information so that a user’s senses will experience digital environments indistinguishable from reality (passing a kind of Turing test).
The basic idea is to build tiny spheres (catoms, nanoscale robots) that can move, store and communicate and that can be programmed to form dynamic 3D shapes of real objects. While the final solution is still years away, interesting visionary applications are spoted: 3D fax, real-presence as oposed to tele-presence (medical emergencies, business meetings), … Many technical (hardware and software) fundamental challenges need to be addressed, as well as some controversial consequences, food for tought to ethics and phylosophy.
If you happen to have 90 minutes free time, it is worth watching Todd C. Mowry’s talk at Stanford.