Small Visions of the Future

It has been said many times that a picture is worth a thousand words. If this is true, then it stands to reason that a video is worth even more. I recently came across two videos that amply demonstrate this point. Moreover, they all point to extraordinary progress being made in the field of miniature robotics and hint to the longer-term potential of nanotechnology -- the science of manipulating matter at the atomic and molecular level.

The first clip (opens a file) comes from a small start-up company, Biorobots LLC, which is working with the University of Florida and Case Western University to develop a flying robot that can be hand-launched. If the robot falls short of the target or if it needs to check out a new area, it can then simply crawl to the next location. A complementary video quite vividly demonstrates how such small robots might also be made to climb over walls and other obstacles.

For some time, I've had a difficult time envisioning how iRobot (Nasdaq: IRBT  ) and others might be able to develop robots to fetch my mail, deliver the remote TV control, or clean my windows. After seeing this video, however, I now have an idea.

The third and final video clip was produced by MIT's Institute of Soldier Nanotechnologies, a U.S. Army-sponsored project that also includes a number of commercial partners, including DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) , Raytheon (NYSE: RTN  ) , Honeywell (NYSE: HON  ) , JEOL, and Dow Corning -- a joint venture between Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW  ) and Corning (NYSE: GLW  ) .

In somewhat futuristic terms, the video explains how nanotechnology can better protect the soldier of the future by lightening his or her load by creating more efficient batteries; developing "dynamic armor" that can detect an onrushing bullet and harden the soldier's uniform in time to absorb the impact of the projectile; as well as create uniforms that can sense, react to, and even inoculate soldiers against chemical and biological attacks.

One of the researchers interviewed in the video is Angela Belcher, who, in addition to being a leading professor at MIT, is also the founder of Cambrios, a principal holding of Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY  ) .

Investors wishing to get an idea of where the fields of robotics and nanotechnology might be headed are encouraged to watch the videos because they offer glimpses of the extraordinary promise of both fields.

You might also be interested in checking out these recent articles:

iRobot and Harris & Harris are both Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Interested in staying atop the latest Foolishness in the fields of nanotech, biotech, info tech, and robotics? Consider taking a free, 30-day trial run to the Rule Breakers newsletter service.

Fool contributor Jack Uldrich is a fan of both nanotechnology and robots, but he doesn't yet fear the creation of nanobots that might someday take over the world. He owns stock in both Harris & Harris and iRobot. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.

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