Travelling in a Self-Reconfiguring World

As I wrote in “Rooms and living spaces in a SRCMR world” many things change
when your living space becomes active and can do things for you.

One maybe unexpected change is how we perceive travel.

Self-reconfiguring modular robotics (SRCMR) will make travel
transparent and almost unnoticeable. No more hassle,
stress and wasted time and at the same time
it will also make it significantly cheaper and greener by
using infrastructure investments more efficiently and allowing
the use of less fuel and energy demanding ways of travel with
the same convenience.

The basics are simple. Since your room is active and not permanently
attached, it can move itself around with you in it.

How can it do that? Well, when you are in one of these smart apartments,
the only thing you see is the inside walls, floors, ceiling and the
view from the window, right? What happens beyond that thin
layer of modules is not your business. This might sound strange
but how much do you actually know about what goes on in and
outside your regular walls?

So with active walls etc that can be controlled, we can move the
room around with you in it and you wouldn’t notice it much .
You will feel dynamic forces, alas we cannot circumvent Newton,
and naturally the view from your window disappears, or will be
replaced with a screen showing an image. But from many other
perspectives, you will be in your home and it will be hard to
notice that you are travelling. That is surely a step up from
travelling as it is today!

Now I bet you are thinking that this is just as far off as
jet packs and other things you see in the Jetsons.
And parts of it might very well be. But we can build a
system that integrates just enough of this new world
with what we already have, to get a simple but totally
new transport system much sooner than you think.

From the inside, a trip in this new fashion would be a non-event.
You would only notice some sounds, movement etc and depending
on your mode of travel you might need to be strapped in
as you would in a car or plane. But other than that you are in a
smaller version of your own home. It might look like this cabin
that is available on the Airbus 380

Singapore airlines suites

or like this Japanese capsule hotel, depending on your budget.

9h hotell

9h Hotell

And you are free to do pretty much what
you regularly do at home, talk to friends you travel with, use the
computer, watch TV and sleep.

On the outside, much more is going on. You will be picked up
by regular trucks using custom trailers. You might be driven
straight to your destination or to an air/sea port or train station
where you are automatically transferred between the different
modes of transportation until you arrive at your destination.

When it becomes this easy to travel you can travel more
and further than you do today. Imagine that you
could accept spending an evening, a night and a morning at
home, as I expect you do that quite often anyway.
That would give you 12-14 hours of travelling time, and that
is more than enough to go from London to Tokyo.
And all that without noticing it all that much. Spending what
in practice is no time at all (remember you would have been
at home doing what you did anyway), you just increased your
action radius to half-way across the globe. Pretty amazing.

This was an introduction to travelling with SRCMR systems. It
included an early implementation that based itself on a little bit
of SRCMR in the first step and then used old school familiar
means of transportation. I will be writing more about travelling
that is completely based on SRCMR soon.

Thanks Christina and MÃ¥rten for reading drafts of this.

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