Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dancing Differently to the Same Drummer

Speaking of MEMS... okay, we weren't, but we should be. Micro electro-mechanical systems, MEMS, represent an exciting frontier that melds computer chips, robotics, and other great stuff, like plumbing and electrical.

Bruce Donald, a Duke professor of biochemistry and computer science, has developed some mind-blowing MEMS robots that move around in very precise patterns without any wires attached. A group of four of them, in fact, can be made to do different dance moves in response to a single set of incoming signals. In this case, a high-frequency electronic pulse. Their stage? Smaller than the head of a pin.

A swarm of these things might be used to carry biological samples around in a tiny environment, for example, or build something.

They remind me of those buzzing "electronic" football and hockey games baby-boomers had as kids, where the little players would careen around the rink randomly as the thing buzzed madly beneath their plastic feet. Only, unlike that stupid game, these players go right where they should!

One to watch, for sure.