Wiggly Colonoscopy Bot Could Provide Safer Way to Investigate Bowels

Remember when you were watching The Matrix and there was that scene where Neo had a bug sucked out of his gut in the back of a car with an odd, scary contraption? Remember how you flinched? Prepare yourself for that same feeling as you watch this SMA-Actuated Soft Biomimetic Colonoscopy Robot, because it’s supposed to be going in you to take video, and its soft, rhythmic wiggle looks as if it cannot be stopped.

Boing Boing discovered the video of the robotic bowel worm, which is being developed by researchers at CU Boulder, and needless to say, the idea of something wiggling its way up your colon seems like an easy opportunity for a hard pass. (Incidentally, you may be at the doctor because of too much hard passing.) But the little Colon Crawler That Could shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, because it may make colonoscopies safer and more comfortable. Plus you can probably give it cute nicknames like if it’s a Transformer, it could be Colonoscopon!

Colonoscopon, the SMA (or Shape Memory Alloy)-Actuated Soft Biomimetic Colonoscopy Robot, works utilizing three identical but distinct sections consisting of several springs between small plates. When a current is applied to a certain section’s springs, they contract—because of the magnetic fields created between the coils—and that section squeezes inward. The flexible covering, which is made of a “novel silicone rubber skin,” then pulls the springs back outward. This contraction and expansion is continued in succession up the three sections of the wiggly anal robo-worm, resulting in a peristaltic movement—peristalsis being the involuntary constriction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles.

The goal of the project—aside from apparently providing fodder for really frightening urban myths for the 40-and-over crowd—is to make colonoscopies safer by minimizing perforation of the bowel wall, and more comfortable, presumably because of less perforation of the bowel wall. Now all we have to do is make sure that Colonoscopon never frees itself from its wiry chains and needs to be sucked out of somebody like… oh yeah, this:

What do you think about this colonoscopy robot? Let us know what’s going on inside of your head in the comments below!

Images: YouTube / AMTL at CU-Boulder

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