Imagine a ream of flat sheets sent into space, folding themselves to form a satellite, or a flat robot sent into a collapsed building to assemble itself and perform its function. That could very well be a reality in the future, as the world saw the first robot to fold itself and start working yesterday without human intervention.
Sam Felton, a graduate student at Harvard University, and his colleagues from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, created a self-folding robot inspired by the complex 3-D shapes constructable with origami, which was published in the journal Science.
Felton says the robot is made from composite paper, a bendable circuit board and uses the toy, Shrinky Dinks. When heated, the sheet shrinks to small, hard forms. These materials allow the quick construction of cheap robots, but eventually, Felton said better materials will help humans build objects in places that are difficult to reach.
In the video below, you can see a flat piece of composite paper rising up to form a robot that scuttles away quickly. The project is an interesting start with endless possibilities for future endeavors.