First, this is a fine piece of graduate level research. In addition to being a proof of concept, the modular nature of their approach suggests numerous valuable applications. It might be the first in a long row of dominos to fall, as other researchers, students, and even basement hobbyists try out their own novel designs.
Second, any references to scary stories about gray goo ought to be dismissed as irrelevant. Before someone writes another article or headline to that effect, they need to read this.
Far more significant for the future of nanotechnology, but not generating 1% of the coverage that replicating robots got, is this short interview with New York University chemist Ned Seeman. We've written before about the remarkable work that he and his team are doing.
Regarding how DNA might help build new types of computers, Seeman says:
As things in the computer world keep getting smaller, they're reaching the point where top-down approaches--trying to make big things smaller--are hitting the wall. What we're doing is building from the bottom up--taking little things and make them bigger.
That's an excellent summation of why advanced nanotechnology -- not just current nanoscale tech -- will be truly revolutionary.
Most of today's nanotechnologists use big, complex things to make tiny, simple things, but the aim of molecular manufacturing is to develop tiny, complex things that make bigger things. These goals both involve nanotechnologies, but in a sense, they face in opposite directions.