Medical robotics has been focused mainly on large, sophisticated systems that make surgery more efficient.

Now we are seeing developments in tiny, soft robotic devices that could move around inside the body to perform various medically related tasks, from delivering drugs to a precisely targeted area to actually performing surgery.

For example, Harvard’s Wyss institute has developed a millimeter-sized robot made from silicone that can be manipulated with 18 degrees of freedom. City University of Hong Kong is working on a caterpillar-like device that can move over challenging terrain inside the stomach and gut, for instance.

These developments represent a new area of focus for robotics technology. I imagine we’ll be seeing more of these small, soft robotic devices that also combine sensor technologies for monitoring and deploying targeted therapies inside the body.