Electrical, mechanical and biomedical engineering come together once again. Researchers from MIT, the University of Sheffield and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have been working on a robot that you could soon be ingesting. You read that right. They're calling it an origami robot, in the sense that after swallowing it, it is supposed to unfold when it is inside the body. The robot will then be able to follow a specific order as programmed into it by an engineer.
Daniela Rus, a director at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said: "The robot can remove foreign objects, it can patch wounds, or it can deliver medicine at designated locations."
The researchers showed the robots off at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm this week. They worked with the case studies of children who had swallowed tiny button cells (used in watches, and electronic devices). These batteries that children ingest have harmful side effects and have to be removed through surgery, however, the researchers are confident that the origami robot could solve the need for surgery.
What about stomach acid? Rus explains: "The challenge with designing an ingestible robot is finding biocompatible materials that are easy to be controlled and amenable to the types of operations that are needed from the robot." The researchers used a pig-intestine casing for the robot so that a human body would not reject the robot upon ingesting it. The researchers built this second version that, according to Engadget, propels itself using the stomach's surface.