The Ancients created the machine as part of their research into the creation of the Asuran race which developed from a nanovirus weapon. It appeared as a smooth table where a puddle of nanite material formed which were capable of forming a cohesive bond after which it was capable of taking on a more Human based appearance.
It was also possible to create a small block of nanite cells, however, by disabling too many of the cells' basic protocols, the structure was incapable of communicating with one another and collapsed apart back into its puddle shaped form.
- The manner of the dialogue suggests that the device was created after the Asurans' evolution into a Human based form.
The Ancients left the machine in storage at Atlantis where it was discovered by the Atlantis expedition. By this time, the Humans from Earth had enough understanding of nanite coding as well as the blueprints of the Ancients themselves to create a working prototype. Dr. Rodney McKay made use of the machine in order to create a block of nanites to serve as a platform to upload a program that was capable of disrupting the natural bonds of the Asurans for the Battle of Asuras.
However, despite all attempts at stabilizing the small blocking nanite forms, it was discovered that it was unachievable as too many basic protocols were sacrificed in the maneuver. As such, Dr McKay decided to create a Replicator who was designated as a Friendly Replicator Android who would carry the program to Asuras to begin the plan. This Replicator was different as much of its programming was stripped without sacrificing basic viability meaning that it was capable of interacting and moving but unable to replicate or change its form. (SGA: "Be All My Sins Remember'd")
Later, Dr. Elizabeth Weir used this machine to regain physical form, although she was in such a hurry that she used the machine's previous Replicator template and came out looking exactly like Fran. She instituted every safeguard in her new body that McKay had designed for Fran in order to make things safer. The other Replicators used this to build temporary bodies so that they could build new human ones. (SGA: "Ghost in the Machine")