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Flying Micro-Robot Takes Off

samzenpus posted about 5 years ago | from the fly-on-the-wall dept.

Robotics 72

AndreV writes "A University of Waterloo in Ontario engineering research team has developed the world's first flying micro-robot capable of manipulating objects for micro-scale applications, which include micro-assembly of mechanical components, handling of biological samples and even microsurgery. It moves around and manipulates objects with micro-grippers, remotely controlled by a laser-focusing beam (heating the pincers with a laser opens them; when the laser is turned off, they cool and close). Its magnetic drive mechanism controls the field using continuous feedback from positioning sensors in order to position the 'bot. 'It can enter virtually any space and can be operated in a sealed enclosure by a person outside,' the project leaders says, 'which makes it useful for handling bio-hazardous materials or working in vacuum chambers and clean rooms.' The video of the contraption shows it floating in mid-air."

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72 comments

video... (1, Insightful)

aicrules (819392) | about 5 years ago | (#27560365)

Video shows almost unrecognizable piece of tinfoil moving up and down a little with part of it always conveniently enough off camera to make you wonder if it was really floating at all....

Re:video... (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 years ago | (#27560595)

You missed the force field below the "robot" - look carefully, it's eerily similar to the field under Luke's speeder.

Then have another cup of coffee and realize it's just video compression artifacts.

Sigh. I hate mornings.

(Ahem, cough,cough): I, for one .... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27561445)

don't think that we need to worry about welcoming any Micro-robotic overlords or undelords any time soon.

Finally, some progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27560381)

These devices will prove indispensable in the struggle against Italian terrorist infiltrators.

UWaterloo is for fags (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27560395)

Suck it bitches.

Flying? (5, Insightful)

ramk13 (570633) | about 5 years ago | (#27560399)

This thing doesn't really fly... It's a magnet that's levitating by using a complex, computer controlled magnetic field. I'm not sure how the robot can go into 'virtually any space' because you need to have a bunch of equipment to go along with it, and the equipment has to be nearby.

Re:Flying? (3, Insightful)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 5 years ago | (#27560607)

I was wondering how the hell it "flew" in a vacuum.

In related news (1)

mandark1967 (630856) | about 5 years ago | (#27561171)

I was wondering how the hell it "flew" in a vacuum.

Scientists were quoted as saying, "Damn you James Dyson! Damn you, and your infernal contraption!"

Re:Flying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27565423)

It levitates with magnets and is controlled by light, ie. Magnets, Muscle wire, and heat

Re:Flying? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27560795)

"Okay doctor, the microbot is inside his body."

"Good. Get the laser."

Re:Flying? (3, Insightful)

Gat0r30y (957941) | about 5 years ago | (#27560941)

Since the power is supplied externally, the robot does not carry a power source or a controller, which enhances its maneuverability.

How can they call this thing a robot, if it has no power source or controller? It would appear to me to be a magnet, with some grippers applied.

Re:Flying? (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | about 5 years ago | (#27565457)

Pretty damn close.

I think the larger, horizontally placed block is a magnet that reacts against a perpendicularly placed magnetic field, to provide z-axis support, while the tinfoil looking thing is another magnet to act against one or more magnetic fields to provide x-y axis propulsion/repulsion.

The gripper is simply a rigid structure with a target(the little round thing) that is heated by a laser(located elsewhere, NOT on the robot) that expands and forces apart the "fingers" of the gripper(the pointy part...well, pointing to the side).

Pretty simple, once you think about it.

But, I agree, it is far from the idea of "robot" one imagines when that word is used. None of the control or gripping is controlled BY the robot, but rather remotely by either a human or computer. There is no ON BOARD autonomy.

Re:Flying? (4, Funny)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about 5 years ago | (#27561811)

the world's first flying micro-robot capable of manipulating objects for micro-scale applications, which include ... microsurgery.

Congratulations University of Waterloo, you get the award for the most sensationalist spin ever given to a magnetically levitated piece of metal. In other news, following this success, all makers of levitating pen novelty toys are rebranding their products as "flying pen assassin robots" (ninja not included).

Update (3, Funny)

alexj33 (968322) | about 5 years ago | (#27560407)

Should change the text to:

"It moves around and manipulates objects with laser-powered micro-grippers, which includes (when millions work in unison) HUMAN HEADS!!"

Well, I bet they'd get more funding if they worded it that way, anyway.

Re:Update So much for ass sass ination... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | about 5 years ago | (#27560851)

So much for assassination via this method... But, then, in controlled environments, it's easier to trick the targets to enter an elevator and magnet-fry them there. Otherwise, use dart guns.

Reminds me of when, in ~ 1976/77 when I was in the 4th or 5th grade. I asked the nun what would happen if someone one put a person in a room surrounded by huge or powerful magnets. She said, "Nothing." I disagreed with her. I guess i was diametrically opposed to her response, but i suppose she didn't want me growing up being diabolical...

levitation (5, Insightful)

purpleque (948533) | about 5 years ago | (#27560489)

I guess technically it is "flying" but that just makes me think it had some sort of wings or a little bity rocket pack, etc...

I think a better description would have been levitating.

Re:levitation (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27560585)

Why? Is flying only the correct term to use when it's the result of some crazy rocket propulsion or flight locomotion?

I think not.

Re:levitation (1)

purpleque (948533) | about 5 years ago | (#27561227)

I thought not as well. That is why i said technically it is flying. Well, because technically by definition it is flying.

But you don't hear people talk about maglevs that fly down the track (unless they are referring to its speed) or a railgun flying its projectile down the barrel. When you hear "fly" related to anything it is usually something with wings (living and non-living), jets, rockets, propellers, rotors, a ballistic arc, or a chemically induced euphoria. Not something being levitated or propelled by magnetism.

And why does rocket propulsion have to be crazy? It is quite a normal thing.

Re:levitation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27561271)

From Merriam-Webster
Main Entry: flying
Function: adjective
Date: before 12th century
1 a: moving or capable of moving in the air b: moving or made by moving rapidly c: very brief
2: intended for ready movement or action
3: having stylized wings â"used especially of livestock brand marks
4: of or relating to the operation of aircraft
5: traversed or to be traversed (as in speed-record trials) after a running start

...all of these imply something that the micro-robot is not... (moving, traversing, wings)

I agree. It's levitating.

Re:levitation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27565171)

IMHO, "flying" is when you're not dependent on something ground-based for flight.

In the case of this magnet, without a powerful magnetic field around it, it would be incapable of "flight".

Would a cannon ball be flying when shot out of a cannon?
Is a glider flying when it's being pulled behind a powered craft?

To call this flight really seems to cheapen the term.
We'd then need rename hovercraft to airplanes as they both "fly".

"Hovering" or "levitating" are far more appropriate terms for this device because it is dependent on the ground.

Re:levitation (1)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | about 5 years ago | (#27565441)

Is a glider flying when it's being pulled behind a powered craft?

Is the powered craft flying when it's being pulled behind the engine? Got any more award winning questions?

We get it already!! (0, Redundant)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 5 years ago | (#27560579)

developed the world's first flying micro-robot capable of manipulating objects for micro-scale applications, which include micro-assembly of mechanical components, handling of biological samples and even microsurgery.

We get it, it's small, you can stop saying micro now.

Was kinda thinking.... (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 5 years ago | (#27560859)

Kinda big for a micro-robot, don't ya think... :-)

I mean, its almost as big as that penny.

Re:Was kinda thinking.... (1)

gtirloni (1531285) | about 5 years ago | (#27561591)

If they called it mini-robot how'd they make it to Slashdot? They wouldn't. This looks nice but didn't get me amazed at all.

Re:Was kinda thinking.... (1)

Shark (78448) | about 5 years ago | (#27565453)

Tell me about it, I expected something like those creepies in 'The Day The Earth Stood Still'

Re:We get it already!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27561119)

"A University of Waterloo in Ontario micro-engineering micro-research micro-team has developed the world's first flying micro-robot capable of manipulating micro-objects for micro-scale applications, which include micro-assembly of micro-mechanical components, handling of biological micro-samples and even micro-surgery. It moves around and manipulates micro-objects with micro-grippers, remotely micro-controlled by a micro-laser-focusing micro-beam (heating the micro-pincers with a micro-laser opens them; when the micro-laser is turned off, they cool and close). Its micro-magnetic drive mechanism micro-controls the micro-field using continuous micro-feedback from positioning micro-sensors in order to position the micro-'bot. 'It can enter virtually any micro-space and can be micro-operated in a micro-sealed micro-enclosure by a micro-person outside,' the micro-project micro-leaders says, 'which makes it micro-useful for handling micro-bio-hazardous micro-materials or micro-working in micro-vacuum micro-chambers and micro-clean micro-rooms.' The micro-video of the micro-contraption shows it micro-floating in micro-mid-air."

Bite my shiny metal track. (1)

Composite_Armor (1203112) | about 5 years ago | (#27560601)

If it is able to fly by magnetic lift, then this is nont a technology worthy of easy field application.
unless; you feel like carrying around a magnetic carpet. it seems they require a pre-installed infrastructure of repulsive material...

just wait until we teach them how to build themselves.....
*by your command*

Re:Bite my shiny metal track. (5, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#27561337)

it seems they require a pre-installed infrastructure of repulsive material...

No problem, as long as they have web access at the site, they can visit 4chan.

/rimshot

Our New Masters! (1)

Kotoku (1531373) | about 5 years ago | (#27560767)

I for one welcome our Flying Micro-robot overlords.

Micro-Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27560911)

How many times can you use the word "micro" in one article?

Re:Micro-Lame (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | about 5 years ago | (#27562629)

How many times can you use the word "micro" in one article?

If you're THIS guy, [youtube.com] then the answer would resolve to "a metric buttload", or approximately .5 LibrariesOfCongress for those about to ask. ;)

Behold... (4, Funny)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | about 5 years ago | (#27560935)

I have posted the first micro-comment capable of delivering micro-information over the micro-Internet at micro-speeds.

Re:Behold... (1)

damien_kane (519267) | about 5 years ago | (#27562481)

I have posted the first micro-comment capable of delivering micro-information over the micro-Internet at micro-speeds.

Let me guess, noone saw it?

needs more micro (5, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | about 5 years ago | (#27560999)

i was reading the summary and couldnt help but think that it needed more micro so in a pro micro display i have used the word micro a lot here and have forsaken punctuation and capitalization in an effort to make things look more micro because i really felt the summary didnt use the word micro enough to describe this micro robot

Christopher Walken says.... (0, Redundant)

rts008 (812749) | about 5 years ago | (#27561613)

Yes, it needs more micro, and more cowbells!
More micro! More cowbells!

Re:Christopher Walken says.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27562219)

Giga micro cowbells, pls.

This is why I hate universities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27561155)

Them: "We have developed a magnetically levitated micro-robot"
Reality: You have developed a speaker.

it's not all magnets you know.. (1)

kreyszig (1419293) | about 5 years ago | (#27561219)

from TFA: "The drive controls the genetic field using continuous feedback from positioning sensors in order to position the â(TM)bot."

Lies (3, Interesting)

EkriirkE (1075937) | about 5 years ago | (#27561223)

It is levitating, not flying. The 'pincers' are likely just bimetal springs or that glob in the center expands with heat to spread the pincers.

Composition: 2 magnets polarized vertical and horizontal each and heat-expansive rods as "pincers" and what looks like scotch tape holding the pincers to the lower magnet.

Re:Lies (1)

node 3 (115640) | about 5 years ago | (#27563849)

It is levitating, not flying.

If it moves through the air, controllably, it's flying. If it just moves up and down (like a magnet), it's just levitating. Sounds like this thing flies.

Before you come back with some engineering case against it being called flying, remember aerodynamic powered flying is a *subset* of flying.

The 'pincers' are likely just bimetal springs or that glob in the center expands with heat to spread the pincers.

In other words, the pincers are just pincers?

Re:Lies (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 5 years ago | (#27563993)

If it moves through the air, controllably, it's flying.

Bullets aren't controllable, but people say "bullets were flying on the battlefield" and such.

Re:Lies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27567237)

Bullets aren't controllable,

There are no bullets.

-- Neo --

I, for one, (1)

mandark1967 (630856) | about 5 years ago | (#27561267)

look forward to our tin-foil hat removing microbot-equipped overlords and, as yet another act of shameless brown-nosing, remind them to prohibit the creation of micro-sized bug zappers, lest they suddenly find themselves without the weapons necessary to maintain good order and dicipline in the new world order

Some people! (2, Insightful)

kheldan (1460303) | about 5 years ago | (#27561325)

I guess University researchers can be as desperate for attention as anybody else can be. They're right on the bleeding edge of misrepresenting what this thing does. It's not really "flying", it's not really a "robot", either. I think this is more suitable for YouTube than Slashdot or any other (pseudo)news-source.

Re:Some people! (4, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | about 5 years ago | (#27564891)

The fact that TFA misrepresents what's going on makes it prime fodder for /. Now we can all demonstrate how much smarter we are than everyone else by all separately posting about how the article sucks and how that's not really what they're doing.

Re:Some people! (1)

Shard.Oglass666 (1507693) | about 5 years ago | (#27566443)

The fact that TFA misrepresents what's going on makes it prime fodder for /. Now we can all demonstrate how much smarter we are than everyone else by all separately posting about how the article sucks and how that's not really what they're doing.

You're my hero! I nominate YOU as Borg leader!

A related SF story... (2, Interesting)

jw3 (99683) | about 5 years ago | (#27561721)

In a 1964 novel called "The Invincible" [wikipedia.org] , Stanisaw Lem [wikipedia.org] (author of Solaris [imdb.com] ) described an evolution of robots ("necroevolution"). The final outcome of the process is a symbiosis between plant-like forms that can source solar energy and relatively simple, highly mobile microbots that are capable to form complex clouds.
Depending on the quantity of microbots that go into such cloud, the cloud can be capable of highly complex and spectacular actions (no pretence of AI, though; pure, hard SF). As the microbots are replaceable, fighting such clouds is like fighting against a shadow.
Sorry, felt like mentioning this :-)
j.

needs a camera on it. (1, Interesting)

hldn (1085833) | about 5 years ago | (#27562217)

i'm sure i wasn't alone in thinking this thing needs a tiny camera stuck on it for uhhh.. certain purposes.

It's not a ROBOT, it's a "waldo". (4, Insightful)

dltaylor (7510) | about 5 years ago | (#27562351)

It is a remote extension of the operator, not running it's own program.

Re:It's not a ROBOT, it's a "waldo". (1)

zmollusc (763634) | about 5 years ago | (#27563871)

I always think of telechir, but waldo gives more scope for 'where's waldo' jokes.

long used in humans (1)

heroine (1220) | about 5 years ago | (#27562741)

This has long been used in humans. Either a magnetic robot flies in the bodily fluids or magnets are used to move an instrument in the body. Who knows what a flying magnet in air would manipulate, since it's in air.

Somewhat obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27563657)

Anyone else reminded of Batteries Not Included?

It's a robot.... (2, Insightful)

ChayD (1522831) | about 5 years ago | (#27564197)

...in the very loosest sense of the word. I was kinda expecting something with wings or a propeller, its own power source and control systems, not magnetic levitating tweezers. Although kudos for it's diminutive size.

The video is missing the pencil! (1)

jforest1 (966315) | about 5 years ago | (#27572105)

That the "scientist" is holding and is stuck into the off-camera side of the "robot". I can make all sorts of stuff "fly" this way.

--josh

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