Pavlina Vardoulaki
Artificial Intelligence

These HyperCells Can Move, ‘Think,’ and Build Cities on Their Own

The cells can build structures that can be modified at will.

Cecille De JesusApril 23rd 2016

A team of students from the Design Research Laboratory at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London has developed a cellular self-assembly system that can be molded based on necessity and restructured as needed.

These “HyperCells” can form into structures on their own and have the ability to climb, roll, and alter in shape to suit the needs of whatever architectural system they’re used to assemble.

How it Works 

Using a mechanism that includes an Arduino board and magnets that change pattern as they rotate, the HyperCell will allow structures to be built and modified in accordance with current needs, and to be continuously and perpetually adaptable to the changing necessities of its environment. They describe it as “an ecology of constant change,” and as a system that is “never in finite form.”

It’s essentially a mechanism for realizing a “living architecture”—homes and buildings that can alter and evolve to suit the wishes and needs of their occupants, changing the interior space, the number of rooms, or even seasonally reconfiguring a structure’s shape to conserve energy.

A single HyperCell can roll by itself and can even calculate the shortest path to its target location, ensuring minimal energy usage. Each cell has a core that gives it the ability to shape-shift from cubical forms into spheres.

According to the team’s website, “every individual cell can take its own decisions and has the ability to climb, roll and change its shape according to the system’s needs…The system exhibits methods of self-assembly where a number of cells are able to come together without predefined instructions to create meaningful structures.”

In other words, they’re “fire-and-forget”—program the HyperCells to build a structure, and they’ll do it all by themselves.  Watch the video to see just a little of what they’re capable of.

Moldable Cities

The students propose the use of this system as a replacement for the current conventional urban planning processes, which are time-consuming. The HyperCell system will generate decisions based on its analysis of local data, and will constantly reconfigure the structure as these needs change.

It will mean a revolution in construction, and a complete rethink of architectural standards and planning—forget dangerous demolition and laborious construction costs.  The HyperCells may mean that the cities of the future can simply be formed and unformed at will.

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