The Mouse-Box includes a 1.4GHz CPU and 128GB of storage

We’ve seen plenty of compact PCs in the past, but few as tiny as the Mouse-Box. This new invention from a team of Polish engineers packs a fully-functioning computer into a mouse that you can hold in your hand. All you need to add is a screen and a keyboard and you’re ready to start work, get online or launch a presentation. The Mouse-Box is currently at the prototype stage and its makers are looking for funding to bring it to production.

Its level of portability is a huge selling point, because if you’re going somewhere with a monitor or projector available, then all you need is a pocket rather than a laptop bag.

Inside the mouse you get a 1.4GHz dual-core ARM CPU, 128GB of flash storage, two USB 3.0 ports, a micro-HDMI output and Wi-Fi connectivity — not bad for something so tiny. There’s not much room for your programs and files, but as Chromebooks have proved, huge amounts of local storage aren’t always necessary for something that you take on the road. The group is also working on a matching mousepad that can double as a charger while you’re using the Mouse-Box.

A micro-HDMI connector is included to attach the Mouse-Box to a display

If you want to just use it as a normal mouse, then that’s fine too. You could take it into work and then switch between your work PC and the Mouse-Box with a button press, for example.

The prototype is fully functional, but the Mouse-Box team is looking for a manufacturing partner to be able to produce the device commercially. Given its specifications, it’s likely that the finished product would run a lightweight OS such as ChromeOS or Linux, but no further details have been divulged just yet. Another unknown is the price, though the developers have gone on record as saying the Mouse-Box will be available cheaply and across the world, funding permitting.

Is this something you’d back on Kickstarter or Indiegogo? If so, the Mouse-Box inventors would love you to share their video, embedded below.

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Henry Sapiecha

THIS 1mm CUBE MINIATURE CIRCUIT WILL POWER ITSELF UNIVERSITY SAYS

Tackling the challenge of power consumption on miniaturized computer systems, researchers at the University of Michigan College of Engineering have designed a one-cubic-millimeter circuit that can power itself. This particular device is aimed at inter-ocular pressure monitoring for glaucoma diagnosis and management, and can be implanted in the eye with a simple outpatient technique. U-M scientists, including Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professors Dennis Sylvester and David Blaauw, hope to make the sensors in volume at the U-M and disseminate them to other researchers in an effort to open up new areas of application.

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Henry Sapiecha

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ULTRA MINIATURE ROBOTS, SO HOW SMALL CAN THEY GET

How small can a robot get? According to a team of researchers at Georgia Tech, really, really small. Described in the July 23 issue of the journal Soft Matter, the Georgia Tech team has been running complex computational models of swimming robots on the micron (0.001 mm or about 0.000039 inches) scale. At this microscopic level, water takes on very different properties from those of the human scale, but despite these challenges the team believes that such robots could have fascinating practical applications.

Designed by team leader Alexander Alexeev, assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Hassan Masoud and Benjamin Bingham, the simulated microorganism-sized robots faced unusual challenges. Swimming on so tiny a scale isn’t like paddling about in a pool. At that size, water is as thick as honey and a micro-robot hasn’t any inertia to move it forward, so it isn’t so much swimming as crawling through glue. That means more was involved than just modelling a tiny robot and sticking a propellor on. It had to be designed from scratch.
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The basis for the micro-robots was hydrogels. A hydrogel is a sort of super sponge. It’s a network of polymer chains that trap water much in the way that proteins in cooked egg whites do. In fact, hydrogels trap water so well that a blob of saturated hydrogel is over 99 percent water, and looks alarmingly like a blob from outer space. Hydrogels have a wide variety of applications from bioengineering to keeping lawns moist between watering and it’s even used in disposable diapers.

By making a robot out of hydrogel, the Georgia Tech thinks that it could use expanding and contracting the hydrogel as a “chemical engine” to move tiny flaps that would propel the swimmer.

The micro-robot currently used in the models is about ten microns long and has a flap on either side of its body. A third flap projects forward. This is a steering flap that responds to light, heat, chemicals or other stimuli. The oscillating volume that the robot uses for propulsion is set off by changes in its environment, such as temperature shifts, chemical reactions or oscillating electrical fields. Meanwhile, the front flap acts as a sort of rudder. The robot can swim, though not very fast. Top speed is estimated to be only a few micrometers per second.

“The combination of these flaps and the oscillating body creates a very nice motion that we believe can be used to propel the swimmer,” said Alexeev. “To build a device that is autonomous and self-propelling at the micron-scale, we cannot build a tiny submarine. We have to keep it simple.”
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Modelling is very important because there are so many variables involved. Different flaps and bodies needed to be studied, for example, and it’s only in a computer that these can be handled practically.

“We have captured the solid mechanics of the periodically-oscillating body, the fluid dynamics of moving through the viscous liquid and the coupling between the two,” says Alexeev. “From a computational fluid dynamics standpoint, it’s not an easy problem to model at this scale.”

The hope is that eventually the team’s modelling work will be of benefit to engineers building the first micro-robot prototypes. The feedback between the simulations and practical testing would make development much faster and easier.

The team also hopes that the micro-bots will find practical applications. They are particularly keen to see them used to move cargo through microfluidic chips, operating lab-on-a-chip devices and maybe acting as swarms of tiny construction robots building components on a tiny scale impossible with today’s techniques.

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Source: Georgia Tech

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha