Screengrab via ACM SIGCHI

Tiny robots could become the ultimate wearable of the future

A different kind of wearable.


Mike Wehner


Published Oct 24, 2016   Updated May 25, 2021, 5:43 pm CDT

When you think of wearable technology, you probably don’t envision robots crawling all over your body. Researchers from MIT and Stanford want to change that with adorable little bots called Rovables. 

Using tiny magnetic wheels to secure themselves to your wardrobe, Rovables robots can traverse your body as you go about your daily routine, kind of like those little fish that attach themselves to sharks and whales. These bots aren’t here to clean up your food scraps, but Rovables are being built with a whole host of other useful features in mind. 

The researchers imagine that one day the bots could react intelligently to both the conditions of the wearer as well as the setting and environment. Some very simply examples—like two of the bots joining to form a simple LED name tag and a bot that positions itself as a microphone for the wearer—belie their potential to become the ultimate smart wearable. 

For those who don’t feel like wearing a smartwatch, a tiny robot could be the ultimate helpful reminder, tapping you on the shoulder to tell you about something you’re forgetting, or letting you know that you’re late for an important appointment. Or maybe they’ll just get cute little costumes and become the ultimate digital pets. 

The bots can already return to a wearable charger to get juiced up whenever they’re running low, and their smarts will only grow as more advances in robotic AI are made. 

H/T NewScientist

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*First Published: Oct 24, 2016, 6:27 pm CDT