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Did You Know There’s Now a Computer the Size of a Grain of Rice?

How can computers get any smaller? Well, they have done it again. For years, we have been losing our mobile phones—now, we have to worry about our computers.

Computers a little bigger than a grain of rice that will be able to carry out complex calculations are the next generation of computers, and are nicknamed smart dust.

Michigan Micro Motes  Image: Screenshot/YouTube
Michigan Micro Mote, the world’s smallest computer. (Screenshot/YouTube)

“Such tiny computers would work much like their larger cousins”, says Prabal Dutta at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. They will have tiny CPUs that run programs on a skeleton operating system and be able to access equally small banks of RAM and flash memory. The plan is for such sensor-packed machines to be embedded in buildings and objects in their hundreds or even thousands, providing constant updates on the world around us, New Scientist wrote.

The world’s smallest computer:

The team is creating the first prototypes, and has called them Michigan Micro Motes.

These computers are only a cubic millimeter in size.

They come with sensors that monitor temperature or movement and can send data via radio waves.

“The vision of blanketing the world with smart sensors is very compelling,” says Joshua Smith, head of the Sensor Systems Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle. “But a lot of sensor networks researchers found themselves surrounded by mountains of depleted batteries and dead sensor nodes.”

The world’s smallest computer, the Michigan Micro Mote:

The motes can be powered by what they can use from their surroundings. A mote near a light source can use a tiny solar panel, while a mote near something with temperature extremes can be built to convert the heat energy that flows between hot and cold into electricity.

Michigan Micro Motes  Image: Screenshot/YouTube
Michigan Micro Motes are just slightly bigger than a grain of rice. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The Michigan team says Micro Motes could be used to monitor every tiny movement of large structures like bridges or skyscrapers. And motes in a smart house could report back on lighting, temperature, carbon monoxide levels, and occupancy. With motes embedded in all of your belongings, it might be possible to run a Google search in the physical world. For example, asking Google “where are my keys?” would give you the right answers if they have been fitted with a mote, said New Scientist.

It will be interesting to see where and how this computer will be used in the future.

Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

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