Tech Star: Seth Goldstein

Technologists affect the world tremendously, but America does not value the contribution nearly as much as they do pop stars and athletes. We must change this! If technologists were more prominent, students would have a wider range of role models and education would be taken more seriously.

In an effort to give worthwhile technologists the spotlight, I’d like to share one of my favorite technology researchers: Seth Goldstein, professor at CMU. Beyond having an awesome first name, Dr. Goldstein is working on world-changing, futuristic research: Claytronics. Claytronics is a form of programmable matter. composed of claytronics atoms, catoms. Catoms are tiny, autonomous sensors that, together, create emergent behavior. The end goal of Claytronics is to allow pario—a new media that recreates three-dimensional data (just as a radio recreates sound and TV recreates video).

Claytronics is the talk of the town, getting featured on the CMU site, Make Magazine,, and CNN boldly claimed that Claytronics is the true next-generation of robotics. These articles are fairly shallow, so I encourage you to read scholarly articles about Claytronics.

Still confused? Here’s a video of a meeting that uses Claytronics to view and dynamically alter a 3D model in real-time.

They are not there yet. Recent progress looks more like this:

Three catoms are aligning themselves. Currently, manufacturing technologies do not exist to create nanobots. Goldstein sees three distinct periods from now until Claytronics realization: macro, micro, and nano. The macrobots, as seen in the above video, are large and locomote using magnets. Because of their weight and relatively weak attractive forces (magnetic), the catoms can only move in two dimensions. However, as the catoms shrink they will reduce their weight sharply and be able to use other forces to move. Nanobots may work more like this:

The work is on-going. The vision is clear and we are progressing nicely. Claytronics provides an excellent motivating application example for research into manufacturing, communications, robotics, AI, and more. I look forward to a world where pario is a reality. Thanks to a technology star, Seth Goldstein, we will know that world!