The Four Stages of Intelligent Matter That Will Bring Us Iron Man’s ‘Endgame’ Nanosuit

Imagine clothing that can warm or cool you, depending on how you’re feeling. Or artificial skin that responds to touch, temperature, and wicks away moisture automatically. Or cyborg hands controlled with DNA motors that can adjust based on signals from the outside world.

Welcome to the era of intelligent matter—an unconventional AI computing idea directly woven into the fabric of synthetic matter. Powered by brain-based computing, these materials can weave the skins of soft robots or form microswarms of drug-delivering nanobots, all while reserving power as they learn and adapt.

Sound like sci-fi? It gets weirder. The crux that’ll guide us towards intelligent matter, said Dr. W.H.P. Pernice at the University of Munster and colleagues, is a distributed “brain” across the material’s “body”— far more alien than the structure of our own minds.

Picture a heated blanket. Rather than powering it with a single controller, it’ll have computing circuits sprinkled all over. This computing network can then tap into a type of brain-like process, called “neuromorphic computing.” This technological fairy dust then transforms a boring blanket into one that learns what temperature you like and at what times of the day to predict your preferences as a new season rolls around.

Oh yeah, and if made from nano-sized building blocks, it could also reshuffle its internal structure to store your info with a built-in memory.

“The long-term goal is de-centralized neuromorphic computing,” said Pernice. Taking inspiration from nature, we can then begin to engineer matter that’s powered by brain-like hardware, running AI across the entire material.

In other words: Iron Man’s Endgame nanosuit? Here we come.

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