A micro robot is a robot less than a millimeter in size, although this term is also incorrectly applied generally to all small robots, even those larger than a millimeter. Even smaller devices known as nano robots are less than a nanometer in size. Potential applications for such technology are varied, and they are under development in private companies as well as government agencies with an interest in robotics. Robot enthusiasts can also build their own if they have access to facilities that allow them to work on an effectively microscopic scale.
Numerous challenges present themselves in the construction of a micro robot. The extremely small size limits the type of technology the creator can use. Controllers need to be very small, relying on nanotechnology to function in some cases, and the robot also needs an extremely small and highly efficient power supply. The development of small technology is of interest to micro robot developers as well as companies working on small mobile devices and other equipment that needs to be of limited size and weight.
In some cases, micro robots can assemble themselves or each other, and may be programmed to operate in swarms. A swarm of robots can perform activities like circuit board construction or diagnosis, equipment repair in small electrical devices, and so forth. There are also biomedical applications. It can be possible to use a swarm of micro robots to perform extremely small surgical repairs or to collect data such as images without having to open up a patient.
For government agencies, there are some potential security applications for micro robot technology. Their small size makes them potential insertion devices to collect confidential information, and they can also be carried by government personnel in the field. Some agencies develop robots for penetration of facilities like prisoner of war camps, to collect data and potentially to distribute information to inmates. The possibilities of such technology are considerable, especially when it drops to the nanoscale and can include devices that may be concealable inside human bodies.
Numerous colleges and universities have robotics programs, some of which include micro robot research as well as nanoscale technology work. These institutions periodically conduct competitions and events to allow inventors to showcase their latest inventions and exchange information about the field. These events are typically limited to public civilian technology and do not include corporate or military micro robots under development, as the information behind this equipment may be proprietary for security or business reasons.