There has been no shortage of creepy robot and artificial intelligence developments over the past few years, but this one should be right there near the top.
According to New Scientist, scientists have created a robot that gets injected into a human’s skull then spreads its tentacles and uses them to monitor brain activity.
A soft robot inserted through a tiny hole in the skull can deploy six sensor-filled legs on the surface of the brain. A version of this soft robot has been successfully tested in a miniature pig and could be scaled up for human testing in the future.
The concept offers a less invasive approach for placing electrodes on the brain’s surface compared with the traditional method, in which surgeons cut a hole in the skull the size of the fully extended device. If it proves safe and effective in humans, it could eventually help monitor and even treat people who experience epileptic seizures or other neurological disorders.
This robot is two centimeters long, but when the tentacles are extended by filling them with a liquid it becomes four centimeters in diameter.
According to the report published in the journal Science Robotics, there are plans to expand the robot’s tentacles, each of which holds electrodes to monitor brain activity, up to eight or 10 centimeters.
“Minimally invasive neurotechnologies are essential approaches to offer efficient, patient-tailored therapies,” said Stephanie Lacour of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s Neuro X Institute in Lausanne. “We needed to design a miniaturized electrode array capable of folding, passing through a small hole in the skull, and then deploying in a flat surface resting over the cortex. We then combined concepts from soft bioelectronics and soft robotics.”
“There’s actually a really large surface area that you can reach without doing a large craniotomy,” Lacour added.
So far, the robot has been successfully tested on the brain of a Göttingen minipig, recording brain activity and electrically stimulating the minipig’s snout.