A flurry of genius that scurries: MIT’s miniature origami bot

June 8, 2015

What do you get when you cross the genius of MIT with the genius of TU Munich? A miniature, self-assembling, multi-tasking origami bot that can carry stuff around of course.

A team of inventors have outdone themselves this time with the creation of a tiny, self-folding bot. Roughly the size of a finger nail, combined brainpower has come up with a miniature robotic critter that is so multi-faceted, it can go for a swim, scurry across multiple surfaces and brave sharp inclines. And when the laborious day is done, place it in acetone and it melts away into oblivion.

The little varmint was first debuted at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle, USA, in a self-explanatory presentation titled: “An Untethered Origami Robot that self-folds, walks, swims and degrades.

It assembles itself like clockwork, suddenly taking form like a magic trick through a laser-cut PVC sheet. Cut to size, it folds into shape when put in contact with heat. The whole process – which lapses in less than a few minutes – is a shocker to witness. 


Once the origami bot has pulled itself together, mechanical movement is derived through the attraction of electromagnetic coil pulses. Weighing just 0.31g and measuring at 1.6 cm, the gadget could easily be mistaken for a little insect if you didn’t know better. While seemingly harmless due to its size, a swarm of these things could be lethal. But fear not, because the origami creature is made of good intentions.

Much more than a toy, the origami bot carries a ton of medical breakthrough’s on its puny shoulders by making way for radical changes in the way surgery could be done in the nearer future. The use of self-folding sensors means it’s only a matter of time before the bot will be able to assume self-governing, independent movement, so that it could be put to use in various other contexts, and for multiple purposes. Watch it here.


by Ghassan Khayyat
Ghassan was tuned into the writing world on a transistor radio-wave of an unbeknownst frequency, once upon a daydream dreary. With a firm belief in Dr. Seussims and all things gadget and gizmo-tronic, he tinkers before he speaks, and chooses his words technologically. He is Editor for T3 Middle East’s Levant English publication and English website, and Associated Editor for the GCC English publication. Reach him at ghassan@t3me.com.