Utility Fog

J. Storrs Hall, the independent researcher who came up with the concept of utility fogs back in 1993, believes that utility fogs will alter our physical landscape — and quite possibly our bodies as well. In essence, the utility fog would be a polymorphic material comprised of trillions of interlinked microscopic ‘foglets‘, each equipped with a tiny computer. These nanobots would be capable of exerting force in all three dimensions, thus enabling the larger emergent object to take on various shapes and textures. So, instead of building an object atom by atom, these tiny robots would link their contractible arms together to form objects with varying properties, such as a fluid or solid mass. To make this work, each foglet would have to serve as a kind of pixel. They measure about 10 microns in diameter (about the size of a human cell), be powered by electricity, and have twelve arms that extrude outwards in the formation of a dodecahedron. The arms themselves would be 50 microns long and retractable. Each foglet would have a tiny computer inside to control its actions. When two foglets link up they‘ll form a circuit between each of them so that there will be a physical electrical network that way they can distribute power and communications. The arms themselves will swivel on a universal joint at the base, and feature a three-fingered gripper at the ends capable of rotating around the arm‘s axis. Each gripper will grasp the hands of another foglet to create an interleaved six-finger grid that will be a rigid connection where forces can only be transmitted axially. The foglets will form a lattice by holding hands in 12 directions. Because each foglet has a small body compared to its armspread, the telescoping action will provide the dynamics required for the entire fleet to give objects their shape and consistency.


Original sources:
http://io9.com/5932880/how-utility-fogs-could-become-the-technology-that-changes-the-world (08/08/2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXpkG93KzdY (12/28/2009)