Thursday, July 17, 2003

Plenty of room before we hit bottom

Technology Innovations LLC and Innovation On Demand Inc. announced today that they have been issued U.S. Patent No. 6,588,208, "Wireless Technique for Microactivation", by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The company says the patent covers microactuators (tiny devices that control microscopic objects) that can be operated wirelessly by focused beams of energy, enabling the devices to control objects in the nanoscale range.

That's all fine, but then the companies' news release goes slightly over the top, claiming that the patent "helps fulfill Feynman's nanotechnology dream." I'm not saying it's sacrilege to take the name of Richard Feynman in vain, but if you're going to invoke the holy name, I at least want to see some atomic manipulation, rather than a new kind of shape-memory alloy. I think it's a great development, but it's nowhere near the vision voiced by the nanotech prophet in 1959.

If every single "step along the way" is pumped up as Feynman-worthy, it's no wonder VCs and the general public are growing more and more skeptical about nanotech. This shape-memory alloy technology allows the baby to rock back and forth. That's great. Honey, get the camera! But don't claim junior is doing a Riverdance.

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