See The Tiny Origami Robot That’s Going Viral — Folds Itself, Walks, Swims, And Dissolves [Video]

While nano-technology has a long way to go, a recent creation in the world of robotics has the internet in disbelief. MIT researchers have developed an extremely tiny origami robot that is able to assemble itself, walk around, swim on water, move objects, follow commands, and can even dissolve completely in an acetone solution.

According to IEEE Spectrum, the origami robot was demonstrated at the ICRA 2015 in Seattle. The developers have written a paper to accompany the invention, called “An Untethered Miniature Origami Robot That Self-folds, Walks, Swims, and Degrades.” The authors, Shuhei Mivashita, Steven Guitron, Marvin Ludersdorfer, Cynthia R. Sung, and Daniela Rus, showed how the unbelievably small mechanism can automatically fold itself into a shape and carry out simple tasks. You can see the same device in action in the video above.

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While this isn’t the first origami robot to be designed, it’s by far the smallest. The technology is remarkably simple. The origami robot is little more than a sheet of PVC pipe with a magnet inside. The magnet is controlled via a nearby magnetic field that causes the origami robot to vibrate. The vibrations are manipulated in specific ways that direct the structure to take certain actions — everything from climbing to digging. The robot can even carry twice its own weight, according to This is Colossal.

The only downside of the origami robot is that the magnet is controlled externally, meaning there is no motor within the machine itself. Four electromagnetic coils are activated underneath the robot to direct its movements simply by adjusting the frequency of the magnetic field.

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According to Digital Trends, the developers hope to create new versions of the origami robot that are much smaller and contain sensors. The end goal is to develop completely autonomous robots that can move around with the human body and perform tasks. The end of the video demonstrates how the material can completely dissolve, which is especially useful for the future of nanobot technology. Once scientists develop microscopic robots that can enter the body, it will be necessary for the devices to automatically degrade.

In the true nature of origami, the origami robot can be folded into various designs, depending on how much heat you apply during the self-assembly process. And that shape is essential to its ability to perform tasks. None of the operations function when the sheet is flat. The robot is specially designed to be asymmetrical and off-balance, which allows it to waddle back and forth when vibrated by magnetic fields.

What do you think of the origami robot? Is it the future of nano-technology or is it simply a cute toy?

[Image credit: MIT and This is Colossal]

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