Watch This Wiggly Robot Worm Swim Effortlessly Through Simulated Body Fluid
The thought of a slew of worms squirming through your body like an organic waterslide might send shivers down your spine, but a weird robot wriggler may some day save your life: Scientists are hard at work figuring out how to apply robotics to fields like ingestible medicine. And they’re getting closer to a breakthrough.
By harnessing the gelatinous power of soft robotics, for example, researchers recently created a tiny robot worm that can effortlessly slither, shimmy, and slip through pretty much any slimy human cavity. Instead of wreaking havoc on your body like some kind of science fiction parasite, the goal is for microbots like this to some day deliver drugs straight to diseased tissue, a procedure that might reduce the need for incision surgeries
The robotic creepy-crawly was created through a joint effort by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). The study was published in the journal Science Advances Friday and describes how scientists could either guide worms remotely or let it surf through the body autonomously.
It’s made entirely out of hydrogel that’s been infused with tiny magnetic particles which make it incredibly flexible and maneuverable. It can hitch a ride on some body fluids and bend its way through the body or be controlled using an electromagnetic field. Co-author Selman Sakar from EPFL explained that either way it’ll never be at risk of getting stuck no matter what gloopy substances they encounter.
“Our robots have a special composition and structure that allow them to adapt to the characteristics of the fluid they are moving through,” he said in a statement.
Similar research has brought about ultra-thin robot caterpillars that can crawl around your gut and tube fish-looking bots that could make colonoscopies slightly more bearable. However, further testing and improvements to all of these robots’ abilities are needed before they become a commonplace medical tool.
Sakar and his colleagues have mastered their worm’s shapeshifting ability, now what’s left is improving the speed at which it can slip and slide through intestines.
Once they’ve fine-tuned its swimming capabilities, don’t be surprised if your doctor asks if you’d prefer your prescription via a liquid, pill, or tiny robo-squid.