MSNBC.com science writer Alan Boyle writes about "swarmbots," baseball sized robot spheres that could be widely distributed to report on disaster sites on Earth or to explore deep canyons on Mars.
Each probe would weigh about 4 ounces (100 grams), and would beoutfitted with artificial muscles so that it could hop as much as 5 feet (1.5 meters) up to once a minute. The spherical shape would allow the probes to bounce and roll as well. A swarm of 1,000 hopping bots, which would collectively weigh no more than Spirit or Opportunity, could cover 50 square miles in a month, [MIT Mechanical Engineering Professor Steven] Dubowsky said.
The MIT news release on the new mini probes, due for testing this fall, is here.