Researchers in Stuttgart, Germany, have been working on small-scale robots for some time now, and the latest iteration of their efforts is quite impressive; and also quite wiggly. They made tiny undulating pieces of silicon rubber that can theoretically execute all kinds of tasks inside of a living body, like delivering medicine, building tissues, and even manipulating single cells. Which we think basically makes them the worms that invade Fry’s gut in Futurama‘s “Parasites Lost.”
The small-scale worm robots, which come via The Wall Street Journal, have their jigglin’ and wigglin’ bodies infused with magnetic particles, allowing the researchers to make them move using external magnetic fields. And although they’re not wiggling their way through any human tissue — or even mouse or monkey tissue for that matter — quite yet, that is the ultimate goal here.
The researchers, led by Metin Sitti at the Department of Physical Intelligence at the Max Planck Institute, published a paper in the journal Nature on the robo-worms, and in the abstract they note that these “soft-bodied robot[s] with multimodal locomotion” are able to execute all kinds of maneuvers across multiple mediums, resulting in a big step forward in the realm of small-scale biotechnology.
“Existing small-scale robots… have very limited mobility because they are unable to negotiate obstacles and changes in texture or material in unstructured environments,” the paper notes, but these new little wiggle-bots are able to swim, crawl through tiny plastic tubes, and even pick up little pieces of cargo and then roll away.
There’s still a lot of progress that needs to be made before the little small-scale silicon rubber worms are able to be injected into an animal or human body, however. These wiggle-bots measure four-by-one-millimeters, making them way too big to fit inside of all the crawly spaces inside a body. For that, they’ll need to be on the micrometer scale, which for reference is one thousand times, or three orders of magnitude, smaller. It can be done though, apparently. And then it will only be a matter of time before somebody has a bunch of little worms hanging out in their body jazzercising their muscles.
What do you think about these wiggly worm-bots? Will they ever achieve the required smallness to be effective? Let us know in the comments below!
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