The Kiss Killer

Michael Crichton’s 2002 science fiction novel Prey became a little less fiction and a lot more science yesterday with Harvard announcing it had created a Kilobot Swarm.

In Prey, scientists at a ‘nanorobotics company’ called Xymos developed tiny flying robots powered by solar power, capable of communicating with each other, learning, innovating and even reproducing.

Harvard’s self-organising thousand-robot swarm can’t do all of that but it can arrange itself into complex shapes on command.

For instance if they get a command: “Form a sea star shape,” sent via infra-red, the robots will start blinking at one another and then they gradually arrange themselves into a five-pointed star.

The robots are just a few centimetres across, standing on three pin-like legs. Each robot moves using two vibrating motors that allow it to slide across a surface on its rigid legs. An infrared transmitter and receiver allow it to communicate with a few of its neighbours and measure their proximity

The bots can correct their own mistakes. If a traffic jam forms or a robot moves off-course – errors that become much more common in a large group – nearby robots sense the problem and co-operate to fix it.

As always the software makes all the difference and the nanobots in Crichton’s book are programmed by an evil scientist do foul deeds like killing animals and getting inside people so they can flow into another person via a kiss.

Hopefully the new breakthrough won’t put the Harvard girls and boys off snogging.



  1. Sad, but understandable, The Baron, the first thing you do with your newly discovered capability is to put it to addressing your own greatest inadequacy.

  2. “Hopefully the new breakthrough won’t put the Harvard girls and boys off snogging.”

    Yeah, nerds do a lot of that!

    I recall being sadly unsurprised many years ago when the MIT eggheads raved about a new toy they had devised. It was a badge with 5 LEDs on it and you listed your 5 favourite things on some central computer. When you approached people at parties then the number of lit LEDs let you know how much you had in common and whether to “initiate conversation procedures”.

    I bet they couldn’t move for all the hot crumpet they picked-up using it. NOT!

    The Baron

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