“Fantastic Voyage” comes to life – sort of

Raquel Welch fantastic voyage

Raquel Welch fantastic voyage

Old codgers like me will remember the 1965 science fiction film “Fantastic Voyage” where a medical team in the submarine “Proteus” are shrunk to microscopic size and are injected into the vessels of a brain-damaged scientist  to try and save him. The ship is reduced to one micron in size but the miniaturisation is temporary and they will revert to normal size after one hour. Naturally the team contains one bad guy. But the most memorable part of this film is that Raquel Welch is one of the team (an assistant).

But now comes news from MIT that “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.”

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