Humans have sent robots to explore some of the most inhospitable places, from the ocean deep to asteroids hurtling through space, but current research has zeroed in on somewhere a little closer to home for the next robot reconnaissance mission: the human body.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are in the process of perfecting the next generation of robots; ones which will literally crawl over our bodies, mapping, learning and reporting, and the progenitor of this new breed, SkinBot, is already in action.
The robot, which isn’t much bigger than a 9v battery, is able to crawl on human skin with the help of suction-cup feet and, in time, scientists believe he and his kind could help tell us a whole lot more about our health.
Researchers hope that these tiny machines will soon be able to traverse our bodies while we sleep, watching for signs of illness and disease, photographing potential issues and even monitoring our levels of hydration and respiration in real time.
In his current iteration, SkinBot consists of two main parts. One which takes care of locomotion and another exchangeable part which carries a multipurpose sensing module which can be swapped out depending on the task at hand.
The job of clinging to the skin and moving this miniature robot around falls to a pair of 3D-printed suction cups, modeled on the common leech, and a microcontroller overseeing the work of four micro servo motors and two vacuum pumps.
The development team behind SkinBot have high hopes for the diminutive bot, and are working to solve a number of issues to ensure that he reaches its full potential, such as removing wires and adding advanced autonomy, but within the next 5 years these sci-fi sounding gadgets could be reality in the medical industry and beyond.