Shape-shifting robot forms from magnetic swarm
The grand goal is to create swarms of microscopic robots capable of morphing into virtually any form by clinging together.
Seth Goldstein, who leads the research project at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, in the US, admits this is still a distant prospect.
However, his team is using simulations to develop control strategies for futuristic shape-shifting, or "claytronic", robots, which they are testing on small groups of more primitive, pocket-sized machines.
These prototype robots use electromagnetic forces to manoeuvre themselves, communicate, and even share power.
The potential here fairly boggles the mind. For example, imagine a "claytronic" humanoid robot; there's no theoretical reason it couldn't approximate the abilities of a comic book superhero.
If we're being visited by extraterrestrials, I'd imagine they'd take advantage of similar technology. Little green men? Hardly. Unless, of course, they wanted to look like little green men.