Scientists are to begin trialling a new miniature robot that can perform surgery via radio control, after one was successfully tested inside a person's stomach. The 'origami' robot – which folds like a concertina – enters the body through a capsule made of ice, before unfolding itself to perform its duties.

The tiny device contains a magnet, allowing it to be steered around the body using magnet fields, where it is then able to pick up foreign objects or repair internal injuries. The robot itself contains a magnet that responds to the external magnetic fields, according to Sky News.

The mini robot propels itself using a "stick-slip" motion: it sticks to the stomach through friction when it moves, but slips free again when its body flexes to change its weight distribution.

Professor Daniela Rus, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it is "really exciting to see our small origami robots doing something with potential important applications to health care. For applications inside the body, we need a small, controllable, untethered robot system. It's really difficult to control and place a robot inside the body if the robot is attached to a tether".

"This concept is both highly creative and highly practical, and it addresses a clinical need in an elegant way," commented Bradley Nelson, a professor of robotics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich.

Origami robots designed by MIT and Harvard are able to fold up by themselves and crawl away
Origami robots designed by MIT and Harvard are able to fold up by themselves and crawl away. Harvard's Wyss Institute

Origami Robot technology is being used in a variety of ways. In 2015, scientists at MIT created an illuminated garden of origami robots, designed to encourage children – especially girls – to learn basic programming skills and ultimately help address a shortfall in the IT sector.