Future Tech: Plus…pint-sized DNA robots & a scent-sniffing robot pup.
Drones deliver medicinal snacks to prairie dogs
From Fast Company:
For the endangered black-footed ferret — an adorable if vicious predator that lives in prairies — one of the biggest threats to survival is the bubonic plague, which is wiping out their prey: prairie dogs.
Without the prairie dogs, the ferrets can’t survive; the dogs are both a food source and a source of a burrow. … To help, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to start using drones to spray candy-sized snacks, filled with plague vaccine, across prairie dog colonies.
“Prairie dogs were seemingly an infinite resource for food, and as a bonus, you killed the owner, you ate him, and then you got the house,” says Ryan Moehring, public affairs officer for the Fish and Wildlife Service. “In some respects, they’re like the worst possible neighbor. But they’re incredibly cute.”
Officials have been trying to fight the disease through a cumbersome process of trying to find every prairie dog hole – inside prairie dog “towns” that are a mile wide and a mile long – and spraying insecticide in the holes in the hope of killing the fleas that carry the plague. … “You can imagine that’s very, very time consuming, cost prohibitive, and inefficient,” …
Working with a group of partners like the World Wildlife Fund, the team carefully designed tiny pellets that look a little like M&Ms. … The researchers proposed two approaches: in one scenario, they’d deliver the vaccines by hand. But in another, they’d make use of drones to more easily spread the vaccine over large areas. An attachment would need to be designed to shoot the pellets from the top of the drone, and it could potentially cover an acre in less than a minute.
These nanobots have been programmed to transport molecules
A recent advance, in which robots made from DNA were programmed to sort and deliver molecules to a specified location, now represents an important step in this futuristic direction.
It’s still early days for nanotech, but new research from the California Institute of Technology is showcasing the tremendous potential of this pint-sized technology. A CalTech research team headed by Anupama Thubagere and Lulu Qian has built robots from DNA, and programmed them to bring individual molecules to a designated location.
Eventually, this technology could be used to transport molecules of many types throughout the body — which could potentially transform everything from drug delivery to how the body fights infections to how microscopic measurements are made.
An adorable robot dog that sniffs out smelly feet
In a group setting, you want to make sure that there is nothing off-putting about you, especially the odor you are emitting. And in a culture like Japan’s, where it is customary to remove your shoes upon entering someone’s home, it makes sense that innovation would focus on making sure there aren’t any smells coming from your feet.
Enter Hana-chan. The tiny 15 centimeter robot puppy will bark if your feet smell a little bit – but in more dramatic fashion, it will roll over and faint if the odor is truly pervasive.
It’s not just being mean, it will give you a hand by spraying air freshener to make the scent more pleasant. Hana means nose in Japanese. The robot was made by Next Technology, a company that is also behind a robot that detects bad breath, so we’re sensing a theme here.
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