Researchers have invented an origami robot that, true to its name, unfolds in your stomach.
If that sounds gross to you, that’s because it totally is, but it could be a game-changer in the medical community due to its ability to remove batteries from the human body, according to a paper recently presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation.
The robot is compressed into a pill and unfolds in your stomach after the casing dissolves. The origami bot’s main goal is to quickly remove swallowed button batteries or to patch a wound in the stomach lining.
While the robot’s in your stomach, it can be manipulated using magnetic fields to navigate to the battery. Once there, the robot picks up the battery using another magnet attached to its body.
The researchers — who come from MIT, Tokyo University, and the University of Sheffield — said that as many as 3,500 button batteries are swallowed each year, and if they’re left unattended for long enough, they will corrode and release caustic chemicals onto the stomach lining.
“[Shuyei Miyahista] bought a piece of ham, and he put the battery on the ham,” researcher Daniela Rus said in a statement from MIT. “Within half an hour, the battery was fully submerged in the ham. So that made me realise that, yes, this is important. If you have a battery in your body, you really want it out as soon as possible.”
This isn’t the first time researchers have introduced swallowable tracking technology. Radioactive tracers are used to track the pathways of drugs as they’re processed by the body. Sensors are also being stuffed into pills to track vital signs after ingesting drugs.