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Sunday, July 28, 2019

On the Further Emergence of the Very Small

Good piece on the emergence fo the very small devices aimed at tasks for many purposes.

Micro machines: How the next big thing in robotics is actually quite small in Digitaltrends

A micro bristle bot beside a penny. Max Planck Institute’s Physical Intelligence Department ...

Half a century after Neil Armstrong memorably uttered the words “one giant leap for mankind,” technological innovation has gotten smaller. Yes, we still thrill to enormous, sky-scraping buildings and the gravity-defying power of rockets, but many of the biggest advances take place on a scale that’s unimaginably tiny next to those of yesteryear. New generations of mobile devices — be they laptops, smartphones and smart watches — shave mere millimeters off the thickness of their already thin predecessors; making already small and portable devices even smaller and more portable. CRISPR/cas9 technology allows scientists to edit single genes; potentially eradicating deadly diseases as a result. New nanometer-scale processes allow chip designers to squeeze ever more transistors onto the surface of integrated circuits; doubling computing power every 12-18 months in the process.

The world of robotics is no different. Think that robots like Boston Dynamics’ canine-inspired Spot robot or humanoid Atlas robot are at the top of the innovation pile, simply because they’re the most visible? Not so fast! On the tinier end of the spectrum, the advances may not be quite so apparent — but, at their scale, they may be even more exciting.

Welcome to the world of microscale robots, a genre of robotics that’s less stop-and-stare attention-grabbing than its metallic big brothers and sisters, but potentially every bit as transformative. These robots could be useful for a broad range of applications, from carrying out microscale or nanoscale surgical feats to exploring other planets.  .... 

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