Tiny Transformer: Origami Robot Assembles Itself, Zips Across Land and Water

MIT researchers have created an origami robot they hope will one day be small enough to travel through the human body. Screenshot YouTube

Robot. The word conjures images of humanoid machines serving us coffee until they revolt and take over the world. But researchers at MIT have added a new type of machine to the mix, one they hope will eventually have a range of medical applications—a miniature, origami robot.

This tiny transformer begins as a flat square that weighs just a third of a gram and looks like a piece of foil. It's actually a magnet sandwiched between layers of paper. When introduced to heat, the robot contracts in a matter of seconds and springs into action.

Driven by magnetic fields, the robot can travel on both land and water at the speed of three or four centimeters per second. It is also able to dig through various materials, travel uphill and push loads double its own weight.

Researchers hope the robot will one day be able to self-destruct by dissolving; they want it to become small and self-sufficient enough to move through the human body.

Watch it at work here: