Don’t you just love it when things are smaller than you’d expect.
As a species we seem to have a strange fascination with making things smaller. We get especially excited when when we manage to make something fit, ‘on the head of a pin’; as though that were some unsurpassable measure of smallness.
Technology has long been the object of our miniaturizing obsession, and now a group of rather clever folks from the University of Michigan have created a computer which is about the size of a grain of rice, making it the smallest autonomous computer in the world; the Michigan Micro Mote.
Apparently this tiny example of computer engineering measures just 1 millimetre cubed, which by our reckoning makes it quite a lot smaller than a grain of rice. Infact over 150 of them could fit inside a thimble.
It’s quite a feat when you think about it.
Consider that the first computer ever made (depending on your definition) was ENIAC in 1946 which took up several rooms, the very fact that less than ¾ of a century later these clever clogs have created one as diminutive as this is mind-boggling.
The Michigan Micro Mote has been over a decade in the making, its development running concurrently with the explosion of mobile technologies and the emergence of the internet of things.
As a simple curiosity this tiny computer is rather intriguing, but the folks at the University of Michigan have set their sights on more than it being a flash-in-the-pan micro marvel; wondrous to behold, but essentially useless.
It can do pretty amazing things.
The uses for such a tiny computer are endless. At the moment it has the capabilities to take photographs, collect temperature readings, and sense pressure; of course many more functions will be introduced in the future making the Micro Mote a potentially useful tool in fields as diverse as medical treatment and oil refining.
For example, its incredibly minute size means that it can be injected directly into the body where it can perform vital investigations such as ECGs and accurately monitor things like blood pressure and temperature. Within the oil industry it is hoped that the computer will be able to assist in the discovery and extraction of unreached wells, making sure that all of the possible oil has been extracted from each location.
On a more everyday level though, the folks behind the computer hope that it will have a positive impact on a number of aspects of the average person's life. For example they expect it will be used as a mini tracking device by being placed on a number of commonly lost items such as car keys, mobile phones etc, which could then be traced easily via a central system.
But what about the keyboard and mouse?
Not surprisingly, communication with the Micro Mote isn't possible through the traditional method of mouse and keyboard, but the engineers behind it have come up with a couple of vastly more interesting and way cooler means of doing so! It is both charged and communicated with by light, with different frequencies of strobing light denoting different pieces of information.
Tiny but incredibly clever!
Check out this really cool little video, which goes into things in a little more detail! And if you love really small things, take at look the worlds smallest nano sculptures.
World's Smallest Computer
Scientists at the University of Michigan have created the worlds Smallest computer. Here, CBS chats with the creators about its history and potential applications.