Origami automaton: We only got 4 minutes to change the world of robotics

  • Living
  • Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014

The impressive transforming origami robot. – AFP

In what may be the birth of cheap, easy-to-make robots, researchers have created a complex machine that can transform itself from little more than a sheet of paper and plastic into a walking automaton. 

It starts out laying flat, like a sheet of paper. Then it springs up, almost lifelike, and folds into moveable parts much like origami art. And then it crawls away. This new kind of robot could someday be used in space exploration, to slide into collapse sites to aid search and rescue, or to speed up manufacturing on assembly lines, experts said. 

Borrowing from the ancient Japanese art of origami, children’s toys, and even a touch of the Transformers, scientists and engineers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created self-assembling, paper robots. They are made out of hobby shop materials that cost about US$100 (RM322). 

After the installation of tiny batteries and motors, a paper robot rises on four stumpy legs and starts scooting in a herky-jerky manner. It transforms from flat paper to jitterbugging four-legged robot in just four minutes. This small lightweight type of robot could explore outer space and other dangerous environments, and get into cramped places for search-and-rescue missions, researchers said. 

But that’s just the start of what may be a long-envisioned robotic revolution. This eventually could be as technology-changing as the three-dimensional printer, said experts unconnected with the study and Harvard robotics researcher Sam Felton, who is lead author of the paper published in the journal Science

The impressive transforming origami robot. – AFP

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