Tiny innovations that pack a punch

Incredible technologies downsized for bigger and broader impact

Ingestible Origami Robot in handThe Index Project

Ingestible Origami Robot

The puny robot keeping you healthy from the inside

Ingestible Origami Robot in useThe Index Project

In recent decades, advancements in design and engineering have made robots our greatest ally when it comes to minimally invasive surgery. Their control and dexterity often mean they can truly go where no one else can.

Ingestible Origami Robot on finger tipThe Index Project

We’ve all seen at least one film or cartoon where the scientist shrinks himself down, jumps into his spacecraft and enters the patient to cure them from inside. Now, a team of researchers might have just developed the next best thing.

Ingestible Origami Robot in stomachThe Index Project

In experiments involving a simulation of the human oesophagus and stomach, researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, have designed the tiny Ingestible Origami Robot.

Ingestible Origami Robot foldingThe Index Project

Once swallowed, the robot can unfold itself and, steered by external magnetic fields, crawl across the stomach wall to perform simple tasks. Such as removing a swallowed foreign object, deliver medicine or to patching a wound.

Ingestible Origami Robot in palmThe Index Project

The two-centimetre-long design is made from a folded sheet of dried pig intestine, which is digested just like any other food, and a small magnet to control the robot’s movement.

Ingestible Origami Robot videoThe Index Project

One of the most convincing applications of origami robots on the market, the hope of the robot is that it will eventually be used in everyday medical practice.

Lung on a Chip in handThe Index Project

Lung on a Chip

A micro-technology to end animal testing

Lung on a Chip in the labThe Index Project

Bringing new drugs to market is an incredibly slow process with one of the biggest challenges being effective testing. Pharmaceutical companies generally rely on animal testing, which aside from the ethical quandaries, generally produces unreliable results.

Lung-on-a-ChipThe Index Project

In 2010, a group of researchers unveiled a device that offers an entirely new approach to drug testing. The aptly titled: 'Lung on a Chip' mimics the functions of the human lung, allowing for testing just as if it were inside the body.

Lung on a Chip rendering with explanationThe Index Project

The Chip, about the size of a memory stick, is made using human lung and blood vessel cells. During testing, the translucent device provides a clear picture as it recapitulates human lung responses to infection, inflammation and airborne toxins.

Lung on a Chip with lightsThe Index Project

With hope, the tool will at least help accelerate pharmaceutical development by reducing the reliance on current models, in which testing a single substance can cost more than $2 million, according to Harvard’s Wyss Institute.

Lung on a Chip held by lab technicianThe Index Project

It not only has the potential to replace animal testing but can also be used to monitor potentially dangerous environments and the absorption of inhaled treatments, according to Donald Ingber, senior author on the study and founding director of Harvard’s Wyss Institute.

Lung on a Chip videoThe Index Project

Raspberry Pi different anglesThe Index Project

Raspberry Pi

The $25 computer

Raspberry Pi contextThe Index Project

With jobs of the future moving toward technology and engineering fields, schools are eager to teach tech literacy and basic programming skills. But, we all know laptops and tablets are expensive and it’s not uncommon for a school to have 2000 students using one computer lab.

Raspberry Pi different anglesThe Index Project

Launched in 2012, Raspberry Pi is a credit card-sized computer designed specifically to teach computer programming to students. The device is the brainchild of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a British charity that working to put the fun back into learning computer science

Raspberry Pi different anglesThe Index Project

Raspberry Pi runs on open source software and comes packed with outlets for digital and audio video, two USB ports, an ethernet port to get students online, and a slot for an SD memory card.

Raspberry Pi different anglesThe Index Project

Students can plug the device into a TV, smartphone, or tablet, and get to hacking. Because the base is open-source, students can change the code in infinite ways and design their own apps.

Raspberry Pi different anglesThe Index Project

Best of all, these compact computers are extremely hard-wearing. Unlike an iPad or laptop, students can tinker with the operating system without worrying. The device can also run existing programs—everything from educational games to robotics software.

Raspberry Pi different anglesThe Index Project

Raspberry Pi also provide free resources to help people learn about computing and how to make things with computers, and train educators who can guide other people to learn.

Wristify different anglesThe Index Project

Embr Wave

The wearable that lets you hack your body temperature

Wristify in contextThe Index Project

Everybody knows what it’s like to quarrel over the thermostat. Particularly in office spaces, where there might even be heaters running in one room and cooling units working in another. It’s an expensive problem – both to bank accounts and the environment.

Wristify in contextThe Index Project

This sleek wearable aims to solve this problem in a very simple way: by giving you a way to influence your own temperature, keeping you comfortable in almost all environments.

Wristify bracelet 2.0The Index Project

The Embr Wave, formerly called the Wristify, works by sending cooling or warming waves to the thermoreceptors on the surface of the skin.

Wristify in contextThe Index Project

It’s comparable to the effect of dipping your toes into a cool swimming pool or placing a warm washcloth on your forehead, the body responds to the contact by gently adjusting its own temperature.

Wristify in contextThe Index Project

According to Embr Labs Co-founder Sam Shames, the wearable draws on 30 years of thermal research to “maximise comfort in a discreet and energy-efficient way”.

Wristify different anglesThe Index Project

Not only does this solve the argument over how to set the thermostat, but it also saves a significant amount of energy. Could this clever wearable eventually make air-conditioning obsolete?

Wristify videoThe Index Project

Pilot Translating Earpiece as small as coinsThe Index Project

Pilot Translating Earpiece

The instant translator in an earpiece

Asian city during the dayThe Index Project

Imagine being able to go anywhere the world and to be able to understand everyone. Never getting lost in translation, avoiding those embarrassing moments, and really experiencing cultures, almost, like a local.

Pilot Translating Earpiece in redThe Index Project

The Pilot Translating Earpieces are straight out of a sci-fi film and enable wearers to talk with each other, in different languages, and instantly hear what’s being said in their own language.

Pilot Translating Earpiece appThe Index Project

The wireless earpieces use the latest technologies in speech recognition and machine translation. They’re controlled via an app where users can access French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish along with English.

Pilot Translating Earpiece instructionsThe Index Project

The app can also be used in conference mode, where several people, speaking in multiple languages, can join in the conversation.

Pilot Translating Earpiece on userThe Index Project

Waverly Labs, creators of Pilot, is also working to add in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, German, Greek, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian and Turkish.

Pilot Translating Earpiece packagaingThe Index Project

While the product has been delivered to its initial 25,000 backers from the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, Waverly Labs are continuing to improve the product. They plan to further improve the translation, making it faster, more accurate and to include more slang and jargon.

Pilot videoThe Index Project

Hopefully, we’ll be able to ditch that phrase-book soon!

Credits: Story

MIT, COMSEVENTHFLT, Wyss Institute, Raspberry Pi Foundation, Waverly Labs and INDEX: Design to Improve Life®

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Once Upon a Try
A journey of invention and discovery with CERN, NASA, and more than 100 museums around the world
View theme
Google apps