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Matrix-Style Wireless Endoscopy
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Matrix-Style Wireless Endoscopy - RF Cafe Cool ProductSome things are obvious to even the casual observer, especially if you have seen The Matrix. Clearly, the über smart scientists and engineers who work at CRIM Lab, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, in Pisa, Italy must have had Mr. Smith's bug from The Matrix in mind when they developed this 12-legged, wireless human intestine explorer. Then again, it could equally likely have been inspired from torture implements employed during the The Inquisition era, intimately familiar to inhabitants of that geographical region.

Mr. Smith's Bug for Neo in The Matrix - RF CafeImagine being told you need to swallow this thing so that doctors can wirelessly guide the beast through your intestines. The pill-sized electromechanical wonder (I'm being nice) settles naturally to the bottom of the stomach and enters the duodenum - the transition between the stomach and small intestines - whereupon the attending physician signals for extension of the insect-like, hooked legs. It then creepily creeps through the area of interest along 30 feet or so of your intestines. At least for the prototype, it drags its high energy density lithium metal oxide battery behind like a fire ant dragging its prey behind back to the nest. Short focal length cameras, sensory elements for smell, pressure, tactile, and chemical measurements, and other features will be incorporated into the final design.

A major drawback to similar devices that do not possess self-locomotion capability is the inability to control the rate at which they progress through the intestines, nor can they maneuver for optimal position within the intestine for making measurements. Other designs often tumble during transit, ruining the sensing function. The frightening-looking hooks on this thing's legs allows it to dwell indefinitely at any position along its path and even back up if necessary. There are currently other capsule designs that have some degree of external control over the ingested explorer; e.g., magnetic guidance, propellers, and worm-like crawling. However, none of those other schemes provide the level of control that this dodecapede affords.

Specifications for the prototype are as follows: retractable legs, two brushless motors for locomotion at up to 5.0 cm/min, custom MOSFET drivers for the motors, wireless bi-directional communications, microcontroller with error detection and correction for fail-safe operation.

I suppose the upside to this approach over Neo's bodily invader is that this creature enters and exits the body through holes already provided by nature rather than entering via the belly button and exiting via a laser-guided vacuum cleaner. I truly hope an asteroid hits me before I ever have to submit to something like this (or any other major medical procedure).

The inventions and products featured on these pages were chosen either for their uniqueness in the RF engineering realm, or are simply awesome (or ridiculous) enough to warrant an appearance.

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Posted December 16, 2011

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