When we imagine futuristic robot helpers, we usually think of bots that are basically humanoid. But other robot forms can be just as useful. Snake-shaped robots, for example, are handy because they're thin and flexible and can transform into different configurations. Most scientists investigating these sorts of bots suggest that they could be useful for search-and-rescue missions, but MIT's Tangible Media Group thinks this might also be a good shape for computer interfaces. Their prototype creation, the LineFORM, imagines a shape-shifting interactive robot that can transform into everything from a mobile phone to a data cable to a flexible lamp.
Here are some of the uses the team imagines:
As a smart wristband the bot provides haptic feedback to the user; alerting them, for example, about a message. They can then unfold the LineFORM and turn it into...
A phone! (Although this is just a concept: there are no actual phone components in the LineFORM as it's currently built.)
A larger LineFORM also functions as a lamp. Just plug a bulb in at one end and it rearranges into a more suitable shape. You can even tweak one segment of the body to adjust the brightness.
Okay, so this function is perhaps the most practically useless, but also the most fun: the LineFORM can be used as an "expressive cord" that wiggles when data (presumably) is transmitted down it.
Other uses in the video include a sort of semi-flexible exoskeleton that can remember and replay specific movements and a "dynamic ruler" that can transform between different shapes. Of course, this is just a concept from MIT, and quite an unwieldy-looking one at that, but it's fun to think of a single shape-shifting input being used around the house for multiple tasks. Just don't imagine it getting hacked and strangling you in the night.