Watch out, the Monolithic Bees are coming to get us

Harvard Mobee Monolithic BeeYou may recall seeing that cool video featuring a swarm of “quadrotor” flying robots at the beginning of the month, and marveling at their ability to fly in formation. Now consider a swarm of even smaller flying ‘bots, all moving independently, and each one housing an array of sensors for monitoring their surroundings.

You’re probably thinking “Eek! I’ve read Micheal Crichton’s Prey, I know what happens next,” but are then comforted by the thought that it’s all science fiction at the moment.

Unfortunately, you’re wrong, as a team at Harvard has come up with a revolutionary new technique for mass producing just this type of micro-robot. Building these tiny robots used to mean doing so by hand, but the new process uses machines to create multi-layered sheets that when complete, fold up origami-style to form a tiny robot bee.

These sheets are made from carbon fiber, titanium, brass and a plastic called Kapton, and measure 2.4mm in height once assembled, while the process itself removes the possibility of human error from production. The bee, after it has been laser-cut from the sheet, is about the same size as a US one cent coin.

The scientists say “dozens” of bees — which also go by the disconcertingly cute name of Mobee — will fit on a single sheet, making the production of thousands seem frighteningly easy, and that the breakthrough could lead to rapid advancement in Harvard’s “RoboBees” project.

Here, teams of “co-ordinated agile robotic insects” could be used for tasks such as examining weather patterns, monitoring traffic and more worryingly, surveillance.

The impressive manufacturing process still relies on the parts being designed by a person, but once this is done it’s a case of robots building smaller robots ad infinitum. Well, until we’ve all been hideously slaughtered at least, then they may slow down a bit.


4 women innovators who are using tech to help others live better lives

Meet four women leaders who are not only at the forefront of technology today, but also using tech — from robotics and medicine to food and undergarments — to help others.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

This very talented robotic leg learned to walk all by itself

Researchers at the University of Southern California have developed a robotic limb capable of walking without preprogrammed knowledge of the task. It’s an impressive feat that could help future robots navigate the world independently.

Sony could use a robot to turn your PlayStation into a fitness machine

Sony submitted a patent application for a robotic device equipped with a camera to assist in your workout. The images included suggest that the device will work with your PlayStation console.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.