Robotics are about to get a whole lot more invasive, with this incredible little device set to aid medical research by navigating its way around your body.
Revealed by researchers from MIT and Technische Universität München, the compact robot is capable of rapidly transforming itself, completing a variety of tasks and even disintegrating.
The machine was unveiled at ICRA 2015 in Seattle this week as part of a project titled ‘An Untethered Miniature Origami Robot That Self-folds, Walks, Swims, and Degrades’.
That’s exactly what it does, too.
The 1.7cm long, 0.31g robot comprises PVC and two sets of magnets set between laser-cut structural layers made of polystyrene or paper.
The PVC contracts when it comes into contact with heat, causing the special structural layers to fold up where they’ve have been cut, creating a pointy-looking robot that wouldn’t look out of place in Transformers.
The entire process takes less than a minute, and the resulting robot can whizz around at speeds of 3-4cm/s. Furthermore, it’s capable of transporting loads twice its weight, as well as swimming, digging and climbing ramps.
Once you’ve had your fun, you can suspend it in a tank of acetone, where it will dissolve leaving only the magnets intact.
Intriguingly, it appears that the researchers behind it eventually want it to perform tasks within the human body.
According to IEEE Spectrum, the team is confident that it will be able to create a robot that can completely dissolve in water – we’re not sure how it will be inserted though.
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The researchers also reckon they’ll be able to add self-folding sensors to the body of the robot in the “near future”, which could lead to them operating autonomously, and potentially even carrying out delicate medical tasks within the body.