Although CP30 and R2D2 may be what comes to mind when we think of a “robot,” a project presented last week at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm, Sweden revealed a much different interpretation of the phrase. These tiny meat robots don't have the same “it” factor as the shiny humanoids we see in Hollywood, but they may be able to save your life one day.

The miniature robots are the product of a collaboration between researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology. According to the press release. these ingestible “origami” bots can fold within themselves and crawl inside of the human body, seeking out and attaching to foreign objects and making repairs.

The robot is made of a material comprised of pig intestine similar to the casing of a sausage, and a new biodegradable shrink wrap called Biolefin which shrinks in response to heat. Once swallowed, the Biolefin allowed the device to fold and contract much like origami, Medical News Today reported. The ability to change its shape, combined with a “stick-slip” motion in which the device attaches to a surface through friction but frees itself when the body flexes, helps the tiny robot propel itself through the human body. The robot’s direction is controlled by magnetic fields outside of the body that communicate with a tiny battery within the origami folds. This tiny battery can also be used to pick up objects inside the body, such as other tiny batteries, and then help carry them to a safe exit.

While the idea of a meat-surrounded robot that springs to life inside your body may not sound very appealing, the device will hopefully be used to help address the problem of accidentally swallowed batteries. In the United States, around 3,500 people accidently swallow batteries each year, and although most are safely ingested, some can become lodged in the stomach or esophagus, Medical News Today reported. Here, a chemical reaction can occur, causing the battery to damage the surrounding tissue.

In some cases, the reaction can be deadly. For example, in 2015, two-year-old Briana Florer, of Grove Okla. died after a watch battery she accidentally swallowed burned a hole in her esophagus and eventually severed a main artery.

Another approach to this increasing problem is to create batteries with a special protective coating that helps make them safe if accidentally swallowed. Although this could be an alternative cost-effective approach to the problem, it has not yet been perfected.

International researchers have been working to develop tiny origami robots for years, and this newest model builds upon past design. According to Ars Technica, the robot will hopefully not only be used for battery retrieval, but could also lend a hand in patching up stomach wounds and delivering medicine. In addition, origami technology is also used to help create mini surgical tools to allow for smaller less invasive operations.

“It’s really exciting to see our small origami robots doing something with potential important applications to health care,” said Daniela Rus, lead researcher on the study and director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, as reported by Ars Technica.