How scientists are developing the robot doctors of the future


Taken out of context, it must have been an odd scene. Late on a cold October night in Montreal in 2006, a room of engineering students and their professor, Sylvain Martel, were watching the limp, anesthetized body of a pig in an MRI machine when the still air was punctuated with gasps and applause.

A hospital technician had just injected a steel bead roughly the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen through a catheter into the pig’s carotid artery, and after a few excruciating minutes of, well, nothing, they watched the bead on a computer screen suddenly hop into motion, ticking off every point the team had plotted for it to go.

It was the first time an object was steered wirelessly through a living creature’s blood vessel, and to the world of microrobotics, it was the dawn of a new era – an accomplishment akin to…

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