Researchers Are Studying These Worm Blobs to Build Robots

These crawlers form clumps to protect the collective. Understanding their movement gives engineers a model for shape-shifting robot swarms.

What if your walking stick could change itself into a foldable stool while you’re out on a wilderness hike? Or if a piece of wrapping paper could fold itself around a package? The idea of shape-shifting active matter has been a staple of sci-fi programming for decades (see: the liquid-metal T-1000 in Terminator 2, or Spidey foe “the Sandman”). But now experiments by teams in Georgia and the Netherlands are finding that the idea of active matter might not be such a stretch. Using agglomerations of worms as

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