someday perhaps we'll buy the modules and then just download new software to update the living room-DrQuine
You are right, and not just about living rooms, there could be quick reconfigurations for all sorts of things. Say a doctor's patient with a particular disability comes to the waiting room--the receptionist could send a command to reconfigure a wheel-chair that exactly matches his disability. Or in factory settings, robots could reconfigure to perform different tasks like when its time to take inventory. The possibilities are endless.
Self assembling furniture is a wonderful concept: someday perhaps we'll buy the modules and then just download new software to update the living room design without buying any new hardware! Technology could even be implemented to change the color of the modules with the redesign (or between day and night).
EPFL was founded by the Swiss Federal Government, but is not known for thier high-tech military research. I believe this project is a proof-of-concept whose real utility has yet to be discovered, even though they talk alot about configurable furniture.
I wonder how quickly it will break, especially when under full load - Susan Rambo
One of the reasons I included the second photo showing the little grippers that bind Roombots together was to give you an idea of their load capacity. Since they are still only proof-of-concept prototypes, there may still be some hurdles ahead to make them stronger enough for tough applications like chairs which need to maintain 200+ pound loads.
are there additional applications for a miniaturized version? - daleste
EPFL is investigating different sizes and configurations for a whole range of applications, but mostly they are right now concentrating on the communications algorithms needed to control and configure them easily.