People’s lives have been immensely improved by advancements in robotics technology. What was once impossible is now already attainable.
Adaptive and assistive technology, as well as brain-computer interface and implants, are only a few of the advancements that benefited the disabled.
People with disabilities, including the blind, have also benefited from robotics technology. In the 80s, adaptive technology for people with sight impairments was developed. Experts have developed programs capable of synthetic speech based on texts appearing on screens and later on through scanned texts.
Robotics and computers have changed lives for the better. Around the world, a lot of children cannot attend school because of hearing or visual impairments, however, because of adaptive technology, learning is made possible.
It is the goal of experts developing assistive technologies to aid those who are living with physical impairments. That is why extensive studies of brain-computer interface (BCI) is constantly pursued.
While viewed by many as invasive, the advantages of using neuroprosthetics cannot be understated. Vital functions such as sensing and motor capabilities are revived. Lost limbs can now be replaced by synthetic parts capable of transmitting signals to senses. Those who are hearing impaired benefit from cochlear implants.
Brain implants have also been introduced to help those afflicted by Parkinson’s disease. A very tiny device is embedded in a particular region of the brain so that electrical impulses reaches other regions thereby triggering the required movement.
Not all BCIs are invasive. There are those that involve merely neuroimaging, functioning as an interface tool. Signals are meant to stimulate implants to trigger movement. This non-invasive method can be a substitute for surgical procedures involving the brain.
Cochlear Implant Procedures
Those who are hearing impaired benefit from cochlear implants. These implants have been popular in Europe and to date, more than 120,000 patients have benefited from it. In three years’ time, it is projected that hearing impaired children could already be receiving cochlear implants before they even reach their 5th birthday.
Ethical issues could spring from robotics and technological advancements, yet no one is blind to the glaring benefits of applying these in the lives of people today. They provide each person the opportunity to lead a healthier life and with it come the privilege to engage in work and worthwhile activities.
Would you agree to swallow a tiny robot? Maybe not, if there’s no compelling reason to. But if it’s going to help you recover from accidentally swallowing foreign material without the need of surgery, you will probably give this amazing invention a try.
There’s a robot so small and ingestible that it could be swallowed. Once inside the stomach, it can perform its function – that of closing a wound or zeroing in on foreign material found in the digestive system.
Scientists from Massachusetts have come up with biodegradable robots so minute and flexible, they can be folded up and swallowed so it could do its function. It is a minimally invasive method of fixing wounds in the stomach as it will just disintegrate once it has done its job.
The tiny robot is made of pig intestines, particularly those used as casings for sausages. It looks like a tiny caterpillar designed using origami technique. A very small magnet helps with maneuvering while inside the intestines, according to experts.
Producing a bot that can be ingested did present many challenges. The team responsible for its development said that making it function inside a person’s stomach was difficult because it had to adapt to the organ’s anatomy. It should be able to move even when it accidentally flips over.
Structure and design
The robot’s material shrinks when exposed to heat. When this takes place, slits on its surface causes the robot to fold making it look like segmented structure, like a column of boxcars.
This segmented structure allows the robot to attach itself on a surface and then break free when it flexes. It moves around via a stick-slip motion.
The stomach is filled with fluids so it has to be made to adapt to a watery environment. The team restructured the robot, modeling it after a fish fin. It is capable of swimming and crawling at the same time.
Tests on an artificial environment
The invention was tested on an artificial stomach. The stomach was structured to simulate an actual one that has foreign material, a small watch battery that has been swallowed. The objective was to test if the bot can target the watch battery and mend lacerations it has caused.
Scientists used silicone mold to line the artificial stomach and esophagus. The silicone stomach also contains a liquid that is similar to gastric juices found in the intestines.
In one of the tests, the robot was placed in a capsule made of ice. It’s as small as a pill so it can be easily swallowed. Moreover, the robot has a tiny magnet attached to it so it can be propelled towards the floating battery.
Once near the battery, it attaches to it and together they can be rolled away from the digestive tract and passed out naturally.
This amazing invention proves to be a promising one but the team has to further improve controls to make maneuvering more effective and safe.