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The goal of the claytronics project (AKA Synthetic reality) is to understand and develop the hardware and software neccesary to create programmable matter, a material which can be programmed to form dynamic three dimensional shapes which can interact in the physical world and visually take on an arbitrary appearance.
Claytronics refers to an ensemble of individual components, called catoms—for claytronic atoms—that can move in three dimensions (in relation to other catoms), adhere to other catoms to maintain a 3D shape, and compute state information (with possible assistance from other catoms in the ensemble). Each catom contains a CPU, an energy store, a network device, a video output device, one or more sensors, a means of locomotion, and a mechanism for adhering to other catoms.
The power and flexibility that will arise from being able to "program" the world around us should influence every aspect of the human experience. Claytronics is a technology which can serve as the means of implementing a new communication medium, which we call pario. The idea behind pario is to reproduce moving, physical 3D objects. Similar to audio and video, we are neither transporting the original phenomena nor recreating an exact replica: instead, the idea is to create a physical artifact that can do a good enough job of reproducing the shape, appearance, motion, etc., of the original object that our senses will accept it as being close enough.
As of 2006 researchers have already created a prototype catom that is 44 millimeters in diameter. The goal is to eventually produce catoms that are one or two millimeters in diameter-small enough to produce convincing replicas.
- 2011 - working ensembles of large spherical catoms.