Technology February 27, 2012
Today in Futuristic Technology: Hold Me Closer, Tiny Robots

Robot researchers are thinking big lately, but building small. From a "pop-up" robot the size of a penny all the way down to a cellular 'bot that can chase cancer cells through the body, here's a round-up of big ideas made small.

Pop-Up Robots

At the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory, a team of researchers came up with an interesting idea for manufacturing tiny, bee-like robots: build them like a children's pop-up book. The team has been working on the bio-inspired 'bots for years, but they struggled with actually building them, since each piece was so delicate. With their new process, they create a multi-layered sheet of materials. Then, they "pop up" the robot, making it three-dimensional, and cut away excess parts. Check out the video above for the details.

Behold the Robo-Fish

Researchers in Italy and New York have created a robotic fish which is intended to help guide actual fish away from "human-induced ecological disasters". The team has had some success: in laboratory tests, some actual fish have formed up with the robo-fish in order to create a "school" formation. The hope is that the robot will eventually be able to hijack entire schools of fish and guide them to safer waters.

Origami-Inspired Cellular Robots Chase Cancer Cells

Researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute have created "DNA origami" nanorobots that hunt down cancer cells inside the human body. The robots are built from a combination of structural DNA, antibodies, aptamers and metal atomic clusters. In lab tests, they were set loose to find cancerous cells. When they encounter those cells, the box opens and releases antibodies that stop the growth of the cancer. The technology hasn't been tested on living organisms yet, but the researchers are considering testing the nanobots in mice.

Related stories on

Robots are Doing it For Themselves

Today in Futuristic Military Robots


Wired on pop-up robots

Spectrum on the robo-fish

Mashable on the DNA Origami nanorobots



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