The whole robots-taking-over-the-world scenario comes to mind when describing Morphs, robotic and geometric sculptures that are to control their own movements, adapt to different surroundings and reshape how humans think about architecture. These solar-powered mechanical creatures are programmed to crawl between different locations and self-assemble in order to interact with humans.
Morph creator William Bondin used his background in architecture to explore how social dialogue can be inspired by structures. He mixed in robotic capability to give these movable structures intelligence of their own.
“Morphs are very low-level creatures in terms of computation, and have much less computational ability than a mobile phone. Instead, they rely on their environments in order to display a level of self autonomy. These playful robotic creatures will encourage the public to choreograph them into dance routines, assemble them into complex sculptural geometries or else play music at them, which they will play back over time,” Bondin told Mashable in an email.
Morph stands for Mobile Reconfigurable Polyhedra; the latter word refers to the slime mold physarum polycephalum, the organism that inspired Morph’s environmental-behavior concept. The organism does not have a brain, but instead uses a cognitive process embodied within its environment. When foraging for food, the creature navigates and distinguishes between different locations by marking previously explored areas with slime.
Not actually using slime, Morphs are programmed to avoid shady and watery areas to protect their electronics. Instead, they seek sunlight and dry areas, fueling their solar power. They also deposit data into a Bluetooth network that identifies their location, and whether or not they are actively used by a human.
Bondin emphasized that Morphs are more than static sculptural forms; he said they are robotic structures able to change and respond to the natural landscape, and are meant to interact with humans and other architecture.
By 2015, Bondin hopes to design a larger-scale Morph. Once its interactive capability and safety is tested, the mega-Morph will eventually be installed in a public park. The project is funded by the Government of Malta’s art-scholarship program.
“The 2015 prototypes are meant to be a step closer, and let us observe and understand the next set of challenges, which mainly revolve around machine learning and human occupation,” Bondin told Mashable in an email.
The latter refers to the interaction between humans and Morphs — the idea of friendly relations between robots and humans instead of a fight over who controls the world.