What if the long-forecasted robot threat won’t arrive from huge machine like the X-Men Sentinels or from an extremely rational AI like Skynet BUT from microrobots doing always the same task (and maybe evolving in doing it)?
SRI International is developing microrobots, magnetically steered ants aimed to assemble electronic components or build small structures. These dark one-centimeter robots can only move on specific pattern of previously-built electronic circuits and have only a small wire arm on the top but they have already proven themselves building a 30 cm-long structure made of carbon rods and LED (which has been used by the team as a lab’s Christmas tree.
In order to build this simple structure, four commands were given to the microrobots. The first is to push a level in order to release a carbon rod, the second one is to pick up the toothpick, then another robot applies the glue to the structure and the fourth one presses the carbon rod, sticking it to the structure. What’s more the software moving the robots can also move the platform in which they are operating in order to repeat the action in another surface.
What’s interesting in this project is that the microrobots can be reprogrammed to operate a new task, making them extremely efficient in the conventional mass production (not like big industrial robots that, once done their task, are done and must be replaced with new machineries.
At the moment, the technology is still at its embryonic stage but the fact that they are reprogrammable, their simplicity and that they can work in really big teams for sure will be the beginning of the real potential of the microrobotics.
…and no, they cannot evolve like a Gibson’s AI. For a while more the human race won’t be threatened by super-intelligent robots.