Ronald Fearing

Natural by Design: Next-Gen Robots Run, Flap, Crawl—and Talk to Each Other

Imagine a city in the near future devastated by a powerful earthquake. Rescue workers arrive and unleash hundreds of tiny robots. Some of these robots flap into the air with “wings,” sending images of the disaster area to the ground team—a swarm of insect-like devices the size of a matchbox that scuttle over the concrete and disappear into crevices. One robot’s sensors detect a person trapped under the rubble, so it signals to a larger, stronger robot for assistance before moving on to the next building.

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

Printer Jam, Will Robinson

As a science fiction motif, the Robot Apocalypse ranks right up there with the Zombie Apocalypse. And, it seems, it’s more likely: anyone who has browsed Ray Kurtzweil’s work on the Singularity—the point at which computers achieve true intelligence, and discover their interests aren’t necessarily congruent with our own—may find the meteoric pace of cybernetics innovation a little disconcerting.

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