Meet ChainFORM – the Multifunctional, Build-Your-Own Robot

Why go out and buy several different robots to tackle various tasks when you can simply use one that will do it all with a few simple adjustments? That’s the idea behind MIT’s Tangible Media Lab, anyway. The team here have devised ChainFORM, which is a modular robot that has the ability to change its shape to become whatever you need it to be.

Researcher Ken Nakagaki described ChainForm as a “novel platform for shape-changing interfaces.” He also said, “Utilizing modular robotics technology; we developed a hardware system with rich functionality to detect tangible interaction, change shape, and color, and let users customize the length and configuration of the device.”

The robot is similar to a previous project called LineForm that was a multifunctional snake robot. It’s made up of different modules that can be applied to various surfaces including and is like a roll of building blocks that simply connect. Nakagaki also stated, “We foresee ChainFORM to be used for mainly two practical scenarios: dynamic computer interfaces and prototyping tools for animation and interaction.” While the first focuses on the interaction between human and mobile devices and computers as more advanced technology become the norm, the second scenario is slightly different. ChainFORM will allow users to create interactive and animated objects that can be designed to meet their needs.

Although ChainFORM is still very much in its development stage, Nakagaki is hopeful that this kind of technology will soon become mainstream and used in some real-world products in the near future.

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