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Arianna Menciassi and her team of researchers at the Sant’ Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy have created a tiny, six-legged robot that can stroll through your intestines and take a look around when there’s reason to suspect a problem. It is guided through the gastrointestinal tract by a doctor, and it beams its image out to an external viewer as it sachets through your mucusy innards.

Currently when doctors want to take a gander at one’s intestines, they usually administer a colonoscopy, which involves three days of a liquid-only diet, a laxative the night before, then inflating the intestines and sticking a fiber-optic camera through the tailpipe. Some previous progress has been made in swallowable camera pills, but they are of limited usefulness because they aren’t able to stop and examine areas of interest as this new robotic gut-tourist can.

From the article:

The radio-controlled crawling capsule has six legs, each with tiny hooks on the end. These help prevent the device slipping on mucus in the intestine as it moves along, but are too small to damage the soft tissues, says Menciassi. The capsule can park at any site of interest by releasing a clamp with two 5-millimetre-long jaws, each with teeth. These grab onto the gut wall tightly enough to resist the muscular pulsations trying to push the device along.

And they keep getting smaller. Another few decades, and this thing will look big and awkward next to the plucky nanobots that will keep your body plugging along at the cellular level. What an extraordinary modern time we live in.

Spotted on BoingBoing.

New Scientist article