Robotics is the field that surprises us with its mind-boggling innovations.
Modern robots are a far cry from the stereotypical image of robots as butlers or terminators of the human race. Robotics is being used in ways that were unimaginable even a few years back.
Now, scientists in Switzerland are working on a new technology that is capable of creating new types of medical robots. Their speciality – they will be edible.
These robots will lead to new procedures, thus expanding the field of robotics in healthcare and adding immensely to the existing means of cure.
The scientists at Intelligent Systems Laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have developed robots that feature gelatine-based actuators that allow movement, but will eventually break down and be digested by the body of the patient.
An actuator is the component of a machine that moves or controls a system or mechanism. These gelatine-based actuators are filled with fluid or air and are programmed to react to bodily chemicals, thus allowing movement.
Initially, the robots will be capable of only simple motions. But once inside our body, it will be capable of time-sensitive release of medicine within the stomach or at targeted areas in the body.
The Possibilities Are Immense
Though the actual development of the product is still going on, this is a significant breakthrough. These devices may be able to contribute immensely to the doctor’s arsenal. They can one day work in tandem with other innovations like batteries that can pass through the human body safely, or inventions like cameras and chips that have already been developed.
Combining these innovations could lead to the development of a fully functional edible robot. On top of delivering medicines to pre-determined areas, these robots can also be used as gripping devices by pairing them. They can also be used to transport food and could be programmed to deliver the right dosages at the time specified.
Edible robots are perfectly safe and are both bio-compatible and biodegradable. It is part of the sub-field in robotics called soft robotics in which components are made in a way that complies with the environmental standards.
The First Time?
This is actually not the first time that a ‘different’ kind of robot has been developed. Back in the year 2016, researchers from the University of York and Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a robot out of pig intestines which they called ‘origami robot’. It had a magnet covered with biodegradable shrink wrap film placed between two layers of dried pig intestines. Once the film gets heated, it slides down, through the stomach, taking different swallowed items like batteries along with it.
On top of that, we have tiny cameras which can enter into locations where the scope cannot reach.
All this goes to show that we have come a long way from the manipulator arm, the first robotic surgeon. We are entering into the fields of nano-robots now. Who knows what lies ahead?
But one thing is clear: if we don’t use this technology for good, soon robotics can bring the destruction of human lives. Here again lies the concept of choice – how do we make the right choice with such power in our hands?
Power is known to corrupt, but can we transcend over it? Let’s hope so. Maybe this time we will learn from history and not let corruption of power get the best of us.
For now, kudos to robotics!