Scientists from the EPFL Biorobotics Laboratory have invented small cooperative robotic modules, called Roombots, that function like building blocks to create dynamic, re-configurable furniture and other useful structures. The 22 cm-long, motorized Roombots are battery powered and wirelessly connected. They use special retractable claws to connect to each other and to passive surfaces. They can also assume a variety of furniture shapes and adhere to walls and floors, allowing the modules to anchor themselves to various places throughout your office or home.
The idea is to create functional furniture that can reconfigure itself on command, which could be extremely useful for the disabled or for homes with less space. For example, imagine the possibility of an existing furniture arrangement suddenly reconfigure itself into a lounging area after you have cleaned the dishes. Other examples include programming a table to follow you around with a wireless LED lamp on its surface, or a chair ready to offer support when needed.
Another exciting possibility is combining Roombots technology with the Transform project at MIT to develop furniture that automatically senses when you want to relax, rearranging itself from a high-backed chair into a lounge chair with an ottoman. Although the Roombots project is in the early stages of development, the potential is vast and exciting, and is yet another example of science fiction becoming reality.