Another of our transformative technologies posts – Here’s something interesting, have you ever heard of a catom? The fundamental building block of a cat right? Did you know that stroking a cat releases negative ions? I bet that’s the only circumstance where a negative ion is a cat ion.
Cat ion? Cation? Geddit?
Oh, never mind. Lets get to the point.
Catoms are the fundamental active unit in claytronic devices. Any the wiser? Well, you will be.
Sometime in the next five years the first primitive claytronics constructs will start being demonstrated, they will be affecting your lives within ten, and within twenty years they will be transforming human existence in ways that only the most visionary are starting to get glimpses of. If it gives you any hint, one of the world leaders in claytronics research is Intel; and they intend it to be BIG. Only they call it Dynamic Physical Rendering.
Ok, catoms/claytronics. Claytronics is the engineering/marketing term for a varient of programmable matter, and a catom is a single unitary particle containing all the active components that allow it to interact with other catoms and the outside world. As wikipedia puts it “sub-millimeter computers that will eventually have the ability to move around, communicate with other computers, change color, and electrostatically connect to other catoms to form different shapes”.
In other words, they aggregate together using magnetism, talk and cooperate via digital radio, autoconstruct dynamic mesh networks, flash at you in whatever colour you wish, and otherwise obey your every command.
Yep, thats right, different shapes. In fact, any shape you damn well wish. And within limits, any texture you wish as well. Fibres, particles, solids, you name it. And given that each catom can act as a pixel, whatever colour takes your fantasy.
Boggled yet? THIS IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION, and it is not something for your grandkids. It will be for you.
Right now? Intel report that they are producing catoms of millimetre size, and expect to shrink them to micron size within 5 to 10 years.
Ok, at millimetre size, assuming reasonable eyesight, and better than mine is becoming, you will be able to see each component, but at micron size? Forget it.
What colour do you want your car today?
Colour? Hell, what shape do you want the bloody thing?
This is where manufacturing techniques come into play, at a dollar each, of micron size, only the military will be able to afford to play with the things, but at a couple of cents per million? A million, sounds like a lot huh? At one micron each a million catoms would cover exactly one square millimetre. A couple of cents per billion maybe, giving us a cubic millimetre, then they will start becoming affordable to the rest of us. Making these things in usable quantities will give mass production and economies of scale whole new meanings.
Still, spray on televisions anyone?
Two inch high renderings of the players scarpering around your tabletop, as Geelong takes on the Gold Coast in the 2019 AFL Grand Final?
For we ubergeeks, here is a paper on the programming language used to control the buggers.
Seriously, when you look at this stuff, why would anyone bother with a God when there are human engineers around to admire? After all, what has God ever done for us? And what have the Intel engineers done?
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