• Sun. Jun 13th, 2021

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Ultra-tiny nanomachines are redefining how we think of robots

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Volodymyr Horbovyy/Alamy

BACK in the early 2000s, an awesome thing happened in the New X-Men comics. Our mutant heroes had been battling giant robots called Sentinels for years, but suddenly these mechanical overlords spawned a new threat: Nano-Sentinels! Not content to rule Earth with their metal fists, these tiny robots invaded our bodies at the microscopic level. Infected humans were slowly converted into machines, cell by cell.

Now, a new wave of extremely odd robots is making at least part of the Nano-Sentinels story come true. Using exotic fabrication materials like squishy hydrogels and elastic polymers, researchers are …