Researchers demonstrate edible origami robot

This mouthwatering morsel is an origami robot that once swallowed, unfolds itself in the gut and can be steered by magnets outside the body. According to the MIT researchers, patients may someday swallow similar robots to patch wounds or retrieve foreign objects. In a new test, the robot successfully removed a button battery lodged in a faux stomach and esophagus. Video below! Yum!

From MIT:

…The new robot consists of two layers of structural material sandwiching a material that shrinks when heated. A pattern of slits in the outer layers determines how the robot will fold when the middle layer contracts….

In the center of one of the forward accordion folds is a permanent magnet that responds to changing magnetic fields outside the body, which control the robot's motion. The forces applied to the robot are principally rotational. A quick rotation will make it spin in place, but a slower rotation will cause it to pivot around one of its fixed feet. In the researchers' experiments, the robot uses the same magnet to pick up the button battery.

The researchers tested about a dozen different possibilities for the structural material before settling on the type of dried pig intestine used in sausage casings. "We spent a lot of time at Asian markets and the Chinatown market looking for materials," Li says. The shrinking layer is a biodegradable shrink wrap called Biolefin.