Programmable matter is an innovative material whose physical properties can change on-demand by reprogramming the small particles it is composed of. Our focus is on shape shifting material where the macroscopic shape of the material can be changed under program control. Such material would enable a wide range of exciting applications such as beaming physical objects (by scanning the shape of an object, transmitting an encoded version of the shape, and by programming a remote shape shifting material to take on this shape), fast-prototyping of models of buildings or complex chemical molecules the user can touch and modify, and so on.
Our current research focuses on the design of the elementary particles of shape shifting matter, with a particular emphasis on how to deal with the problem that shape shifting requires a substantial amount of energy. Further, we are investigating programming models that allow the specification of the desired macroscopic shape and how to translate this into actions of the individual particles.