Origami Comes Alive

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s a reconfigurable robot! One of the latest inventions coming out of CSAIL is a flat piece of semi-rigid plastic, about a half-millimeter thick, that can transform from an origami boat into a paper airplane, all without the aid of guiding human hands. Developed by researchers from CSAIL and Harvard University, the sheet uses the concepts behind origami and electrical engineering to create a robot that is able to transform into a series of objects when prompted by electronic signals. Professor Daniela Rus, director of the Distributed Robotics Laboratory at CSAIL, and CSAIL’s Professor Erik Demaine worked together to develop the model for the robot, which is a sheet of material outfitted with robotic muscles and magnets, allowing the object to change shapes and hold its new form. While the transformable robot prototype is too small to have many real world applications, if the size was increased it could be used for anything from creating a tent that adapts to differing wind conditions to solar panels that adjust according to the amount of available sunlight. The model could also be used to download shapes and programming hardware onto a laptop or smart phone for individual use. To learn more about the reconfiguring robot, click here.