Surgeons' Future Mini Assistants? A Super Small Shape-Shifting Origami!

Khryss | Published 2017-10-02 07:57

If you’ve watched Rick and Morty (spoiler alert), there’s a scene from the episode “Interdimensional Cable 2: Tempting Fate” where a character, Shrimply Pibbles, is being operated by an alien surgeon using a scalpel and a nano-doctor equipped with a nano-scalpel. WTF, right?

How is it related to this articles? Well, we might just have our very own nano-doctor! (Minus the other nano-thing.) A small transforming robot has been created to be used someday for surgeries and exploring. With the help of special exoskeleton outfits, the minibot can glide through the air, walk, roll around, even sail!

The small robot called a Primer, rolls around an exoskeleton that starts out as a sheet of plastic. The Primer is only a few centimetres in size and is controlled by an outside magnetic field. Heat is then applied to the exoskeleton to “transform” into a specific shape, similar to a self-folding origami. These exoskeletons give the Primer abilities to adjust to different scenarios: There’s one that makes it create larger rolls, another is shaped like a glider to, well, glide when falling, and another is shaped like a boat  which enables it to float and carry twice its weight. And when you're done using it, just dip the Primer in water!

Daniela Rus, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of the study, says: “In the future, we imagine robots like this could become mini surgeons, squished into a pill that you swallow.” These tiny surgeons then use different exoskeletons to administer medicine or to collect samples. Although this study is in its infancy, the possibilities of this technology could have many benefits. “Some aspects of surgery could be done without incisions, pain, or infection,” Rus says.

Not only is it going to be your friendly nano-doc, but it can also be used for exploring things like abandoned warehouses or wildlife reserves. “This is a great example of how origami robots can take on diverse tasks using different clothing, meaning that you can mould the robot to different situations,” says Jamie Paik at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

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