back to article World’s smallest remote-controlled robots are smaller than a flea

Robot boffins have revealed they've created a half-millimeter wide remote-controlled walking robot that resembles a crab, and hope it will one day perform tasks in tiny crevices. In a paper published in the journal Science Robotics , the boffins said they had in mind applications like minimally invasive surgery or manipulation …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    "The heat is applied remotely through a laser"

    So, does that mean that, for this to work, you have to be bathed in laser beams ?

    Do sniper scopes apply ?

    1. Felonmarmer

      Re: "The heat is applied remotely through a laser"

      Kind of negates the "terrifyingly undetectable to human senses" aspect.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: "The heat is applied remotely through a laser"

        On the todo list:*

        Tweak the laser to be non visible and have a beam width no larger than the device.

        Add a retro-reflector with shutter to allow information to be coded into the returning beam.

        Add a camera

        If it wasn't creepy enough before...

        *TLA organisations everywhere

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: "The heat is applied remotely through a laser"

      "Stay perfectly still as we adjust the laser(s) to make our robot(s) walk into your crevice(s) at the rate of 0.25mm/second."

      That'll go over well at the surgery ... Presumably they will offer free psychological counseling after each treatment?

      And how are they made to move after they are in said crevice(s), out of range of the laser? Endoscope? If so, why bother with the robots?

      1. VicKrem

        Re: "The heat is applied remotely through a laser"

        If the tech is mature you always can find use for it. Need of a laser beam is a limited factor for sure. But the size of workers/tools is a serious advantage. How about all things dental for example?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: "The heat is applied remotely through a laser"

          Assuming you can convince people to allow tiny metal spiders into their mouth, these things aren't strong enough to handle a lot of standard dental work. For the bits they are strong enough for, they move too slow to be of any use.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The heat is applied remotely through a laser"

      So, they could be controlled by orbiting lasers then? Sounds like it's time to get out my tinfoil hat....

      1. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: "The heat is applied remotely through a laser"

        No, no, no, you train the sharks to control the laser beams, of course…

        1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

          Re: "The heat is applied remotely through a laser"

          I believe that would require a "frikkin' laser" ...

        2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: "The heat is applied remotely through a laser"

          Sharky Ward DSC, AFC

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharkey_Ward

          Whilst he's now long since retired from the Royal Navy, he would have experience in handling laser guided weapons.

  2. Archivist

    Boffin?

    I stopped reading when this word appeared as presumably the story was borrowed from a tabloid newspaper.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Boffin?

      You're new here aren't you?

      We hold our boffins in high regard.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Boffin?

        S/he joined joined 2010. Should know better by now :-)

      2. genghis_uk
        Boffin

        Re: Boffin?

        They even got their own icon -->

        (in the UK, boffins are highly regarded, scientists, maybe a little eccentric but that is not 100% necessary - think Turing, Einstein etc.)

    2. John Doe 12

      Re: Boffin?

      I know I am in the minority here but I find that word "boffin" to be very dismissive and degrading to the scientific community. Used once in a while it is perhaps amusing but here on the I.T. Daily Mail it's overuse is beyond boring.

      Yes this post is as much downvote bait as the one I am replying to. "Whatever" is my comment to people clicking that button :-P

  3. Ken G Bronze badge
    Boffin

    Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?

    No, Mr Bond, I expect to power up your pubic crabs!

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?

      A few days earlier, in M's office

      Q: Now pay attention 007 - In this vial are an army of little robotic crabs. I want you to drop your trousers and tip the contents of the vial down inside your Y-fronts.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?

        Bond wears Y-fronts?

        Who knew.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?

          Moneypenny. And "Jaws".

  4. Disk0
    Boffin

    Imagine

    The gripping terror in the microrganisms encountering human creations from the robocop universe…

  5. Mishak Silver badge

    People get paid to do this?

    I'm in the wrong job!

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: People get paid to do this?

      University research, students don't get paid and the prof gets paid anyway.

      They've got labs full of cool toys, best keep them busy doing something relatively harmless to justify the expense of the cool toys.

      Any research reaching the market is normally majority owned by the university and students are hardly ever named in patents.

  6. Dr_N Silver badge
    Terminator

    Micro Robots...

    Controlled by frikkin' sharks!

    Bring it.

  7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Are they "robot"?

    Are they robots if they have no internal power or processing? The definition of "robot" seems to be getting wider than the definition of AI.

    1. Ken G Bronze badge

      Re: Are they "robot"?

      waldo?

    2. badflorist

      Revisionist journalism.

      No, this is not a robot.. A robot moves AND performs an action.

      https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/robot

      It's still kind of cool like jumping beans.

  8. cantankerous swineherd

    but can it cross the Atlantic?

  9. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Not seemingly useful ... At least Nanites sit in the corner and replicate woolly jumpers

  10. sebacoustic

    inferior

    just compare these to e.g. a red spider mite: similar in size but the buggers can run about 5x their body length in a second. Their 8 legs move so fast you can't see them when they're running. And all they need is to suck some plant juice to keep going (which can wreak havoc in a greenhouse when there are 1000s of the beasts around)

    1. JassMan Silver badge

      Re: inferior

      Damn beat me to it. If they are going to go for biomimetics, the red spider mite is surely the epitome of the sprinter, not to mention energy store. The ones in the south of France can cover 8 to 10 cm / sec. Given that they are even less than than .5mm, I make that 200+ body-lengths/sec. Maybe they produce their own steroids. [Actually they probably do]

      I am fascinated that that seem to be able to do this endlessly for hours on end round the edge of the swimming pool without recourse to finding any plant juice to top up their energy supplies. I'm guessing that they use some sort of resonant spring action because they are either going like the clappers or come to a total stop while they compute their next plan of action.

  11. ElReg!comments!Pierre
    Headmaster

    Carcinisation

    "Rogers called the crab-like feature of the design “a creative whim.”"

    Either a lie or a lucky "whim". For these kinds of application, Evolution seems to agree with this design decision. And of course XKCD has a take on it

    : https://xkcd.com/2314/

  12. adam 40 Silver badge
    Gimp

    So now Bender

    can catch crabs!

  13. osxtra
    Gimp

    You Will All Be Assimilated

    So that's how Borg nano-probes came about!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: You Will All Be Assimilated

      The concept was well known in SciFi long before the borg were thought up.

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