For example, Lineform can wrap around your wrist and remind you of meetings with a simple tap, not unlike a smartwatch. It can curl up into a touch-sensitive keypad, sans actual keys. It can curve itself into a hand-friendly “phone” shape. It can wiggle, shake, and tap to convey when you’re getting a message, or serve as a simple cable connector when you need one. Plug-in additions, like lightbulbs, add even more functions. It can even be used to model geometry in real space while recording those shapes in 3D paper space:


Of course, MIT’s working model is extremely low-res—it’s not as if you could start using Lineform today. That said, it’s a surprisingly functional prototype considering what they’re asking it to do, demonstrating just how advanced soft robotics are today.

But there’s actually at least one downside to how quickly Lineform can shift its strange, worm-like body: It scares people. In their paper, the trio describe how a demo day with members of the public: “One initial observation is that the larger LineFORM can startle users when it quickly changes form.”


Even for harmless soft robots, the uncanny valley is wide and deep.

[Lineform; h/t Prosthetic Knowledge]

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