If robots are going to surf through our bloodstreams by 2030, as futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts they will, we’re going to need to find a way to make the bots both tiny and mobile.
And if a video released by IEEE Spectrum on Thursday is any indication, we’re on the right track.
The clip features a microbot created by Ryan St. Pierre from the University of Maryland running surprisingly fast for its size — which is about the same as that of an ant’s face.
According to IEEE Spectrum, the robot is 2.5 millimeters long and weighs just one milligram — vastly smaller than a grain of rice. That’s too small to support traditional motors, so St. Pierre embedded magnets in the bot’s hips. He then created a rotating magnetic field around the robot to force the embedded magnets to rotate and move the bot’s legs.
Using this locomotion method, the robot can run up to 37.3 millimeters per second, which is equivalent to 14.9 of the bot’s body length every second. For comparison, a cheetah can move at a speed equivalent to 16 body lengths per second.
Other researchers are already exploring the use of magnets to control microbots designed to navigate the human body, so the insights gleaned from St. Pierre’s research could put us one step to having armies of robots keeping us healthy from the inside.
READ MORE: Four-Legged Walking Robot Is Smaller Than an Ant’s Face [IEEE Spectrum]