We’ve seen swallowable cameras, and origami-based automatons, but nothing that combines the two. Until now. In the video above, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows off a very cool digestible origami robot capable of accomplishing simple mechanical tasks inside your body.
The robot is is swallowed whole, folded up inside a capsule made of ice. When the capsule melts, the robot is released—at which point it can unfold and get down to business, controlled by an external magnet. As Daniela Rus of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory explains in the video, the robot can “remove foreign objects, it can patch wounds, or it can deliver medicine.”
Finding the right biocompatible material was key to the breakthrough, and researchers eventually settled on pig intestines—the same stuff in which sausages are encased. (Contrary to popular belief, this is not what holds hot dogs together, though. At least these days.)
The video points out the bot’s usefulness at removing, for example, any of the 3,500 button batteries (!) that are, somehow, swallowed yearly in the United States.
Next up for MIT is adding sensors to the robot and a way of controlling its own movements so it doesn’t rely on external magnetism.