With the rapidly-evolving landscape of artificial intelligence, most of us joke about SkyNet rising before too long at all. As it turns out, part of the Terminator franchise may already be here. Last month, a group of scientists revealed they’ve managed to create a “liquid metal” robot reminiscent of Terminator 2‘s T-100 villain played by Robert Patrick.
Using magnetic fields to control the machines of the “robot,” which is small enough to be a LEGO mini-figure, researchers shared a video in which they were able to move the figure through a cage due to its elasticity.
“Folks have been working on these small-scale, magnetically responsive robots and machines for quite a while now,” researcher Carmel Majidi said in an interview with VICE. “In parallel with that, my group has been pioneering a lot of techniques using liquid metals-metals like gallium that have a very low melting point.”
He added, “This is one of the attempts at merging these two approaches and just seeing what happens when you start blending these two together. The hope was for a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario where we could take advantage of the high electrical conductivity and the phase-changing abilities of the gallium metal with the magnetic responsiveness of magnetic microparticle systems.”
So, yeah…a version of the T-100 is here and all it took was a little gallium, some magnetic microparticles, and a cage stuck inside a magnetic field.
“When you have a metal that’s in the presence of an alternating magnetic field, we just know from fundamental principles of electromagnetism that that causes basically electrical current to spontaneously flow through that metal,” the researcher explained. “It’s that spontaneous electrical current that heats up the metal and causes it to melt.”
The researchers hope the new technology has many uses across various industries including biomedicine, where it may be used to help deliver medications to specific organs.
“I wouldn’t have imagined that there were so many different responses and capabilities of these material systems. That really stood out as pretty surprising, and also exciting, about this material,” Majidi concluded.