Because we've all been asking for it, Orbotix was nice enough to drop off one of their Sphero robotic balls (ball-shaped robots? Ball-bots? Spherical robots?) at PopSci HQ, and we've been playing with it (read: driving it into our boss's office and giggling) ever since. It's an alpha model, and Orbotix is making lots of tweaks to the product before it actually hits the market, but here are our impressions--and some video of the endearing little guy in action.
The wee electron has gotten its most thorough physical examination yet, and scientists report that it is almost, almosta perfect sphere. Researchers at Imperial College London have determined the electron is just 0.000000000000000000000000001 centimeter off from being perfectly round. Put another way, if the electron was magnified to the size of the solar system, it would deviate from immaculate rotundity by a magnitude equivalent to a human hair.
The MIT-designed SPHERES (that's Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, and Reorient Experimental Satellite) aboard the ISS -- those little globes that fly around like tiny satellites even though they are confined to the station's interior -- are in line for some big upgrades from DARPA. And in true DARPA fashion, the hardware updates are bold: aside from designing the next generation of spheres, DARPA wants the current models to be fitted with vision-based autonomous navigation and force fields.