This falls in the “I want one of these” category:
Yeah, yeah, the soldiers’ weapons of death will be able to adapt to the desert and then switch over to jungle mode when called upon to do so. Our domination of the planet will be complete. That’s nice, but this thing is so much bigger than that.
Check out the tool box. You buy what amounts to a can of paint and inside you get any tool you’ll ever need. You want a wrench? Command “Wrench!” Voila. You have a wrench. This is so beyond nifty.
Changing from a wrench to a hammer is certainly great, but think of this: no more having to carry around a complete set of metric sockets as well as a complete set of English sockets in case you ever have to disassemble an appliance of unknown origin. Keep in mind the misery of the socket set completist. Half of any set of sockets, regardless which system it is, gets lost down the drain. Now you have to start buying the single pieces to replace the lost ones, but they don’t fit in the foam cutouts in the original carrying case because the new sockets are a different brand and they aren’t quite the same. Now you have to buy a big toolbox to hold all the floaters. Eventually the little things get lost in the mix of crap at the bottom of every toolbox, so now you have to go back and buy some more and…
You see what I’m saying here. This is so much bigger than one country beating the crap out of another country. What we’re talking about here is no less than an organized toolbox. Without actually having to organize it. Do you know how valuable that is?
Even beyond that, I’ve seen men in the tool department at Sears, drooling over the 52 piece sets of screwdrivers/socket wrenches/router bits/wood chisels. No one can justify buying a complete set of anything because you know you’ll never use more than just 4 or 5 of the basics, but still you want a complete set. It looks so neat and it comes with a carrying case.
This materials science here, this is a gold mine. All you do is buy that one paint can and you have a complete set of everything including a Dremel kit which no one ever uses but is necessary nonetheless. And the paint can is the carrying case.
The only monkey wrench I can see is that it seems like this only works with organic materials, i.e. long chain polymers, i.e. plastics. A really good tool, a hammer, or a wrench, say, is made from steel which is mostly iron and a little bit of carbon and maybe some other metals if it’s for a high end tool. Metal molecules don’t work like other molecules such as long chain organics. I wonder if the scientists will get the metals to behave correctly. To follow orders. To change shape on command.
I wouldn’t put a lot of money on a plastic screwdriver, even if it could turn into a hammer, or a wrench, or a crowbar at my verbal command. It would certainly be fun at a cocktail party, no doubt about that, but can it fix a flat on a highway in a rain storm in the middle of the night and then when I get home repair the fencing, finish the roofing, and snake out the plugged toilet?
Waiting with bated breath to find out.