Tech Project

Programmable Matter
Open Call
In Residency
Residency Outcome
Build mm-scale robots that can stick together. Controlled by a program, this matter can change its shape.
From Jan. 1, 2017 to Jan. 12, 2019
  • -  Benoit Piranda
    - Credits: Benoit Piranda
  • -  Benoit Piranda
    - Credits: Benoit Piranda
  • -  Benoit Piranda
    - Credits: Benoit Piranda

Description of the challenges faced by the Tech Project

In this project, the team will investigate a new smart system made from a hardware component and a software approach that will enable the creation of the basic blocks of programmable matter, a matter made from centimetre-size modules attached together and able to move. The hardware component is a quasi-spherical robot using computationally controlled forces for power distribution, communication, adhesion (latching), and locomotion. The software approach aims to provide a new way of programming such a complex system through a scalable, real-time, efficient, expressive and at the same time safe programming of an ensemble of robots with an emphasis on self-configuration and self-reconfiguration distributed algorithms.

Brief description of technology

As the design of the micro-robots composing programmable matter are not available yet, we have 3D printed bigger size elements, sticking with magnets. The artist will have at this disposition, these "fake" elements that are specific geometrical objects that we called quasi-sphere. They could be used waiting for the real hardware that will be built using polymer.

What the project is looking to gain from the collaboration and what kind of artist would be suitable

We have two kinds of ideas concerning the collaboration. First, while we are focusing on the technical design and usage of the programmable matter, we did not envisioned all the usages that can be done with this electronic clay. We expect the artist to think about applications in the artistic field. Second, we would like the artist to think of the link between virtual and real objects as thanks to programmable matter, an object being design inside a computer can be directly synchronized with a real object made from programmable matter. If the real object is modified, the virtual object will therefore be adapted. As programmable matter is matter sculpted interactively by a program and a human, we think a plastic artist would be the best match.

Resources available to the artist

The artist will have an office with an internet connection in our laboratory and will take benefit of all the facilities in the Numerica building (professional stage for example more on We have budget for this project so reasonable demands about travel, consumable and equipment can be made. We have also a studio on the campus that could be used to host the artist (free of charge).