Medical robot capsules have been around for a while. Most of us are familiar with capsule endoscopy, specifically virtual colonoscopies. A small pill sized robotic camera is swallowed by the patient and the transmits data and pictures during its journey through the digestive tract. With the improvements and cameras, instruments, wireless transmitters, actuators, etc. these devices are going to become better for the foreseeable future., They have usually been very expensive R&D efforts using custom-designed electronics and mechanical components. Everything about these devices was unique. But that may be changing.
The Vanderbilt school of engineering has just announced that it is going to open source (here) the hardware and software modules that it has been using to build these sorts of devices. Since they had built a number of them they noticed that they were reusing common components as well as common software to control those components. In the course of their custom designing capsule robots they had developed a standard for the hardware chassis, the electronics modules, and the software (TinyOS based) that ran on those modules. “We’ve done custom capsule design – one for the colon, one for the stomach, another one with a surgical clip to stop bleeding – but we saw we were basically reusing the same components,” said Valdastri, a director at Vanderbilt’s Science and Technology of Robotics in Medicine (STORM) Lab.
They are providing people working in this field with their own "Lego bricks" to create their own capsules. Small groups or even individuals can now build their own cyber-physical system.
I can't wait for them to show up in the adafruit catalog! (Are you listening LadyAda?)