AI News, An Edible Actuator for Ingestible Robots

An Edible Actuator for Ingestible Robots

What’s been missing so far has been the thing that makes a robot distinct from a computing system, and that’s an edible actuator that would allow an ingestible robot to actually do something useful once you’ve swallowed it.

It probably doesn’t taste very good, but it’s biodegradable, biocompatible, and environmentally sustainable, and could enable all kinds of novel applications, as the researchers explain in their paper: The components of such edible robots could be mixed with nutrient or pharmaceutical components for digestion and metabolization.

Potential applications are disposable robots for exploration, digestible robots for medical purposes in humans and animals, and food transportation where the robot does not require additional payload because the robot is the food.

What’s novel about this is the composition and edibleness, and as it turns out, making it edible has some additional benefits: Since gelatin is melty, the edible version could be capable of self-healing, which conventional pneumatic actuators typically are not.

When edible robots can be metabolized, they also function as energy storage providing an advantage in terms of increased payload with respect to non-edible robots that must be loaded with a food payload.

These soft robot fingers are also edible

Instead, researchers from Swiss research institute EPFL imagine digestible bots being put to a number of uses — from exploring our bodies (before being disposed of by our guts) to “food transportation where the robot does not require additional payload because the robot is the food.” (Our emphasis.) These ideas and more were outlined in a recent paper titled “Soft Pneumatic Gelatin Actuator for Edible Robotics” and first reported on by IEEE Spectrum.

They even suggest that rather than humans eating the edible robots, the robots could eat themselves — with the gelatin providing an emergency source of energy for a struggling bot.

We Are Getting Closer to Making Robots You Can Eat

Researchers have presented an edible robotic actuator, offering a potential leap forward towards the overall goal of an edible robot.

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), who showed their results at the recent International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Vancouver, say' 'Potential applications are disposable robots for exploration, digestible robots for medical purposes in humans and animals, and food transportation where the robot does not require additional payload because the robot is the food.'

While none of them had taken a whole actuator down the hatch, they had eaten some of the scraps left behind during the manufacturing process, the robotic equivalent of licking the cake batter off the spoon.