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Intel teases shape-shifting programmable matter via Fabbaloo.

In the final keynote of the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) Thursday, Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer, shed some light on work around programmable matter, as he teased the audience with what Intel believes would apply as technology in the next four decades.

The idea of programmable matter, he explained, revolves around tiny glass spheres with processing power and photovoltaic for generating electricity to run the tiny circuitry. These particles called catoms would move relative to one another via electrostatic.

The concept of programmable matter can be thought of as “the ultimate form of digital printing”, Rattner told ZDNet Asia Wednesday in an interview. “You literally could make an object of any imaginable shape, or design an object of any imaginable shape, and simply ‘hit the print command’ and the matter would take that shape.

“[The late] Arthur C. Clarke (famed British author and inventor) had this wonderful quote: ‘Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.’ And that’s what programmable matter is–it’s a technology so advanced it might as well be magic,” he said.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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