Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Harvard roboticists have engineered a folding robot that can move without batteries. The origami robots, which are about the size of a quarter, could have biomedical applications. Imagine "robots that you could swallow and then … control their motions for diagnostic procedures, biopsies, drug delivery," says study author Robert Wood from Harvard University.

How it works: Wirelessly induced electrical currents are delivered to the robot's "muscles" — mechanical actuators — to activate them. The robot can change shape — including returning to its original configuration — when heated with electrical current because of the specialized metal alloy coils in its joints. The combination of the two features allows the researchers to fold and unfold the robots parts independent of each other, or together, creating complex movements. For example, this technology could get a ship in a bottle to move its sail without any connection.

What's new: The complexity of movement is what sets these robots apart, says Harvard's Mustafa Boyvat, another author on the study. "We can remotely select which folds to actuate and control the time to do that with ability to repeat." Existing designs typically require wires or electronics on board the robot, which can make them heavier and unsafe to swallow. Roboticists at MIT created an origami robot controlled by magnets but it can fold only once.

What's next: "Go smaller," says Boyvat, who plans to work with doctors on the next iterations of the robots. They're small, but not small enough to swallow yet, and there are, unsurprisingly, a host of concerns about ingesting machines.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Podcasts

Facebook boycott organizers share details on their Zuckerberg meeting

Facebook is in the midst of the largest ad boycott in its history, with nearly 1,000 brands having stopped paid advertising in July because they feel Facebook hasn't done enough to remove hate speech from its namesake app and Instagram.

Axios Re:Cap spoke with the boycott's four main organizers, who met on Tuesday with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top Facebook executives, to learn why they organized the boycott, what they took from the meeting, and what comes next.

Boycott organizers slam Facebook following tense virtual meeting

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Civil rights leaders blasted Facebook's top executives shortly after speaking with them on Tuesday, saying that the tech giant's leaders "failed to meet the moment" and were "more interested in having a dialogue than producing outcomes."

Why it matters: The likely fallout from the meeting is that the growing boycott of Facebook's advertising platform, which has reached nearly 1000 companies in less than a month, will extend longer than previously anticipated, deepening Facebook's public relations nightmare.

Steve Scalise PAC invites donors to fundraiser at Disney World

Photo: Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s PAC is inviting lobbyists to attend a four-day “Summer Meeting” at Disney World's Polynesian Village in Florida, all but daring donors to swallow their concern about coronavirus and contribute $10,000 to his leadership PAC.

Why it matters: Scalise appears to be the first House lawmakers to host an in-person destination fundraiser since the severity of pandemic became clear. The invite for the “Summer Meeting” for the Scalise Leadership Fund, obtained by Axios, makes no mention of COVID-19.