iRobot has built over 2,000 machines for the military. Most of 'em are 50 pounds plus, and more than three feet long. But, lately, the company has been working on an itty-bitty version of its Packbot reconnaissance machine — one that weighs less than a pound, and is about the size of a paperback book.
The idea is for a soldier to dispatch a swarm of these "Ember" bots to scout out a possibly-hostile building, instead of sending a single, large Packbot. Once inside, the Embers would set up an ad-hoc wireless network, and then autonomously scurry around the floor (kind of like iRobot's Roomba vaccum cleaning automaton). Tiny flippers will help them vault over objects. Cameras will beam the scene back to the G.I.
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