In the 60s, there was the space race between major superpowers. Today, there’s the race for the most innovative smartphone with the largest amount of screen real estate. However, unbeknownst to most mortal being, there is another race going on about geeky engineers: the race to built the tiniest computer possible. University of Michigan has lead the way, only to be beaten by IBM, but now, it looks like the University has reclaimed the crown.
The institution has announced that it has created the smallest “computer” that not only outdone its own 2 x 2 x 4 mm Michigan Micro Mote developed in 2014, but it has one upped IBM’s 1 x 1 mm chip revealed in February. Words and numbers cannot described how small it is. To be it in perspective, this so-called ‘computer’ can sit atop of the tip of a rice grain and it probably won’t fall off because, the space on the grain of rice will be considered too spacious for this ‘computer’.
We keep saying that it is a ‘computer’, but the truth is, it probably it is more like a well-equipped sensor. It is a feat nonetheless. There is a caveat though; data it picked up will be wiped once the power is turned off. Same goes for the IBM’s example. So, it begs the question: “what is constitutes a device as a computer?” But what the hell? Who cares it will benefit the humanity, right?
Speaking of medicine, this tiny computer could have immense benefits to the world of medicine where highly accurate and sensitive sensors could help shed new light on diseases. Though we are wary about the power off and forget ‘feature’. If there’s a way to overcome this while maintaining this small size, it will have even more applications.
Image: University of Michigan.