Archive for April 6th, 2012

Science fiction, once more…

Friday, April 6th, 2012 by Roberto Saracco

I have already posted some news under the heading science fiction. I do that when I stumble onto something that is at the edge of my ability of imagination. And this is a point in case.

Cyberplasm schematics

Cyberplasm is a project jointly conducted by the National Science Foundation and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in UK.

It aims ad developing a micro robot (initially 1 cm long and then squeezing down to 1 mm) that can move autonomously in the blood stream exploring the body from the inside, to detect potential harmful situations. To do that the robot is equipped with synthetic sensors, a computer with the intelligence level of a lamprey (pretty stupid as intelligence ranking goes but still very effective in interacting with the ambient) and a swimming tail that can be operated by synthetic muscles.

The micro robot needs to operate autonomously and take decision as it moves around, decision about where to go, what to sense and what to make out of the sensing to report only what matters. The researchers are trying to mimic nature to replicate the basic intelligence and autonomicity required.

They see a future where each of us will have a number of these cyberplasm robots swimming in our blood vessel, acting as sentinels to signal if something looks bad. It is really science fiction for me, although they are targeting for a working version within this decade.

These robots represent a new class of devices at the edge of nature and engineering. They are addressed in a new science branch, the one of synthetic  neuroethology, that is starting to see researchers discussing ambient and ecosystems populated by them.