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Utility fog is a collection of tiny robots, envisioned by Dr. John Storrs Hall while he was thinking about a nanotechnological replacement for car seatbelts. The robots would be microscopic, with extending arms reaching in several different directions, and can perform lattice reconfiguration. Grabbers at the ends of the arms would allow the robots (or foglets) to mechanically link to one another and share both information and energy, enabling them to act as a continuous substance with mechanical and optical properties that could be varied over a wide range. Each foglet would have substantial computing power, and would be able to communicate with its neighbors.
The idea of nanobotic swarms was detailed as early as in 1964 by Stanislaw Lem in the novel The Invincible.
In the original application as a replacement for seatbelts, the swarm of robots would be widely spread-out, and the arms loose, allowing air flow between them. In the event of a collision the arms would lock into their current position, as if the air around the passengers had abruptly frozen solid. The result would be to spread any impact over the entire surface of the passenger's body.
Utility fog is sometimes thought of as a nanotechnological version of the Swiss Army Knife.
While the foglets would be micro-scale, construction of the foglets would require full molecular nanotechnology. Each bot would be in the shape of a dodecahedron with 12 arms extending outwards. Each arm would have 4 degrees of freedom. When linked together the foglets would form an octet truss. The foglets' bodies would be made of aluminum oxide, not diamond, to avoid creating a fuel air explosive.
- Utility Fog: The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of Dr. Hall's original writeup
- Article at KurzweilAI.net: The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of
- What I want to be when I grow up, is a cloud J. Storrs Hall
- UTILITY FOG: A UNIVERSAL PHYSICAL SUBSTANCE A more detailed description
- On Certain Aspects of Utility Fog by Dr. J. Storrs Hall
- LEGOs (TM) to the Stars
- Utility Fog at Nanotech Now, many links.
- Foglet Visualization 3D illustration of Utility Foglet