Miniature robot for exploring your inner self (quite literally)
By Mike Hanlon
2004A fantastic journey in medicine is beginning with recent advances in miniaturisation by Japanese company RF System Lab. The Norika 3 RF Endoscopic Robot Capsule brings the body alive with live video of the patient's gastrointestinal system.
Norika 3 uses a 1/6 inch colour 410,000-pixel CCD camera inside a micro capsule that is swallowed by the user. Image technology allows for variable focus by disc type magnets and a profound and dynamic range of microscopic data.
The capsule camera travels through the digestive system and can be controlled by rotor coils for tilt control by remote operation with a joystick. Lighting volume can be adjusted and switched to infrared spectrum for multiple analyses.
The increase in power needed for the improved illumination forced a revolutionary battery free endoscopic design.
Microwave technology separates the DSP from the CCD which means that 94% of it's power can be provided with wireless transmission from outside the body from a coil embedded vest worn by the user.
Operational signals are also digitized and multiplexed to communicate with the vest that then controls various devices.
The capsule's rotation, direction, lighting, air valve regulation and focusing can all be adjusted on the live monitor and the capsule's position and direction can be detected by monitoring the electrical level.
Automatic operation is possible as sequential programs can be easily transferred to the CPU within the capsule. The dimension of a capsule camera is 9mm in diameter and 23mm in length. The case is made of resin. Inside the capsule three rotor-coils for posture control are located on the rim.
Around the camera lens are placed four white LEDs and magnetic coils for focus adjustment. Two tanks with valves are prepared in the centre and a there is a capacitor to store electric power and a microwave video signal transmitter. 40% of the volume is free space, which can be used for surgical purposes such as medication spray, laser treatment, pH sensing and more.
Accurate spray medication and direct tissue sampling can be conducted through compressed air jets.RF System Lab also have a second device, the NorikaJr Endoscopic Robot Capsule which performs most of the operations of the first capsule but is smaller in size, with only a 1/10 inch Color 410,000-pixel CCD image sensor.
The size of this cutting-edge capsule endoscope is 5.8mm in diameter and 15mm in length. It is far smaller than the NORIKA 3 and its volume is 27% of original.
NORIKA Jr. has no capsule control function in order to minimize its size and it boasts user friendliness, especially for babies and elderly patients who have narrow gastrointestinal tracts.
It was important to measure information from within the body in anti-gravity situations but scientists wanted to obtain data directly from the gastrointestinal system by using non-invasive techniques. The Capsule Camera System was considered but first they had to design a battery free system to avoid toxic substances being utilized within the body.
ARF System Lab started this project in April, 1998 and has successfully developed the prototype with the Norika 1, 2 and now 3 Endoscopic Capsules.
While the whole world starts turning inside out as we further internalize our technology, new vistas of the human body are opening up to our vision and understanding.
And with RF System Labs at the forefront of microscopic medicine, the future will be an easy pill to swallow.
RF System Lab's latest device can be found here.
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