Researchers at Stanford University have developed 3.5-ounce robots that can pull cars over 2,800 times their combined weight. The developers were mainly influenced by ants, which are known for their high coordination and strength that enables them to lift over 100 times their weight.
While it is during this decade that more interest is growing on micro robotics, research in tiny bots started as early as the 1970s under government sponsored intelligence programs. Early microbotics researchers mainly aimed at developing devices that would facilitate communications with prisoners of war and facilitate their rescue.
Gradually however, various corporates, individuals and educational institutions started their own micro robot projects for diverse applications. We are yet to see these tiny objects do a lot of awesome things. Below are some of the ways in which microbotics are going to shape our future:
Robots Will Perform Surgery and Grafting
In 2015, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed its project on tiny robots that could be used in noninvasive surgery and body grafting in the future. The robots are made of light, thin, paper like material. They can swim and climb surfaces while carrying objects twice as heavy as their own weight.
The robots have neither wiring nor batteries. Rather, the film that curves to form their bodies is composed of magnets that enable them to be controlled remotely by manipulating the magnetic field around them.
Because of their light nature, future robots of this kind may be sent inside the body to conduct tissue repairs. They will be able to carry tiny grafting pieces to sites, place them securely, and come back out.
It is also possible to make the robots from soluble materials, such that, after they finish their job, they dissolve into body fluids and get excreted.
Robots have for a long time been instrumental in protecting the environment, especially during disasters. The machines have been used in the process of cleaning up oil spills and nuclear plant leakages.
Since nuclear power plants are in wide use as a source of energy for many of the developed nations, it is logical that accidents similar to the Fushushima nuclear disaster will occur in the future. With tiny bots, it will be much easier to map affected areas and aid in their clean up. These robots may also be able to carry neutralizers and clean contaminated regions; there will be no need for humans to handle the dangerous tasks.
Moreover, micro robots can help in regenerating forests. Many small robots can be packed with seeds and sent to the center of forests to plant these. This will be an easier and cheaper method, considering that comparatively lower material expenditures are incurred when manufacturing these machines.
Once industries for mass manufacturing robots are up and running, the costs will go even lower. SRI International for instance is working on tiny robots that will be able to create fellow robots.
Waging War with Robots
Future warfare might involve plenty of robots in the battlefield with fewer human soldiers. While bigger robots like Google’s Atlas and drones will still be essential for actual combat, microbots will assist in intelligence collection, repair, and coordination of other fighters.
It is however hard to imagine how battles will be concluded if enemies on both sides adopt high tech robot armies. Probably, future warfare will be all about displaying technological superiority; battles might be fought almost entirely by robots.
Microbots Robots in Construction
Microbots will also assist in handling lighter parts of building construction and repair.
One of the microbotics projects that SRI is working on aims to create a swarm of robots that will handle electrical cable installations, screw tightening, and fixing of other mechanical malfunctions in places that are difficult to reach. With further developments in Artificial Intelligence, such robots will also be able to do tasks like painting, debris cleaning, and troubleshooting of problems in conduits.
The manufacturing sector will also benefit from the low costs that will come with letting tiny bots do packaging and maintenance work. However, there is also a threat that the robotic infiltration in factories will cause many job displacements.
The future of AI Robots is something that people look at with mixed feelings. Since it is inevitable, however, we can only wait and hope that this technology brings more blessings than harm to humanity.