These are kilobots. Tiny three-legged microchips with infrared eyes that point downwards at the table.
One $15 kilobot on its own can’t do much that’s very interesting, except maybe flash its little light in your face. But they’re called “kilo” because you’re not supposed to use just one at a time. You’re supposed to use thousands.
These guys can swarm.
Developed by a team at Harvard, the kilobots are programmed by infrared, so you can flash the same message to all of them at once. Good idea – can you imagine having to plug each one of these things into a USB port?
The design is ingenious. Instead of wheels or legs with hinges, both of which would cost a lot more and eat up much more battery power, these little guys have simple vibration motors – the same kind you’ve probably got inside your smartphone – and three plastic legs that look like sticks of spaghetti.
Once they’re programmed, they spin up their vibration motors and literally hop their way across a surface.
Twenty or thirty of these guys looks pretty cute in these demo videos. Now imagine a million of them. Or 10 million. Even smaller, even smarter, and every single one trying to touch your nose, so it can activate its “I touched a guy’s nose!” green light.
Crowd control of the future. Trust me.
(Via IEEE Spectrum)
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