Robot unfolds from ingestible capsule, removes button battery stuck to wall of simulated stomach.
In experiments involving a simulation of the human esophagus and stomach, researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have demonstrated a tiny origami robot that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by external magnetic fields, crawl across the stomach wall to remove a swallowed button battery or patch a wound.
The new work, which the researchers are presenting this week at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, builds on a long sequence of papers on origami robots from the research group of Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
“It’s really exciting to see our small origami robots doing something with potential important applications to health care,” says Rus, who also directs MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “For applications inside the body, we need a small, controllable, untethered robot system. It’s really difficult to control and place a robot inside the body if the robot is attached to a tether.”
System from Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab 3-D prints hydraulically-powered robot bodies, with no assembly required.
One reason we don’t yet have robot personal assistants buzzing around doing our chores is because making them is hard. Assembling robots by hand is time-consuming, while automation — robots building other robots — is not yet fine-tuned.
Assembling robots by hand is time-consuming, while automation — robots building other robots — is not yet fine-tuned enough to make robots that can do complex tasks. The new method allows the team to automatically 3-D print dynamic robots in a single step, with no assembly required, using a commercially-available 3-D printer. “All you have to do is stick in a battery and motor, and you have a robot that can practically walk right out of the printer.” To demonstrate the concept, researchers 3-D printed a tiny six-legged robot that can crawl via 12 hydraulic pumps embedded within its body.