Very small robots are something that scientists and engineers have been trying to make work for a while now. The uses for small, mobile machines are myriad, but it’s so hard to cram everything necessary for a robot to function (brain, power source, sensors, and the motors necessary to move) that the field hasn’t seen many marketable advances.
Which is why this story in Gizmag is so interesting. A researcher at SRI has essentially simplified the idea of microrobots, turning the “robots” into nothing more than the hands of an external system. But! if that system can use magnetic levitation and precise control to move those hands exactly where it wants them (to build stuff, for example – check out the videos embedded in the story!) then it’s a far better system than building massively complex and fault-prone individual robots, right?