A team of scientists at MIT Cambridge have developed a prototype of a “programmable matter” which can automatically change its shape when electrical impulses are applied to it.
A demonstration of the technology was put together using a sheet of the material, which automatically folds itself into various shapes. This “self-folding origami” is made from a custom fabricated material with triangular sections moved thin-foil actuators and magnets embedded into the flexible surface. The prototype sheet has 32 tiles, and can fold itself into the shape of a boat and a paper airplane as you can see in this video clip:
The programmable matter could someday lead to materials that could take on multiple forms, such as a plate that could turn into a bowl or a cup. One more ambitious use could be to create robots that automatically change form to adapt to their environment. They’ve got a long way to go before they’ve got a T-1000 on their hands, but it’s still pretty cool stuff, even if they just get it to make some origami unicorns for now.
[via Boing Boing]