The treads are mere rubber bands, but they allow the robot to climb over obstacles--like the pile of a carpet--that its small size would otherwise render unmanageable. Its brain? "The little computer is the same one used in vending machines and treadmills," says Sandia researcher Doug R. Adkins. Future models might include a radio, a camera, or even a chemical sensor. And since they're so tiny, says Adkins, the robots could be turned loose in a room to listen in on conversations.
MARV, which is no bigger than the last joint on a pinkie finger, could shrink even more if researchers can figure out how to make a smaller battery. By Petti Fong