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MIT Scientists Develop A Tiny "Origami" Robot That Can Walk, Swim And Self-Destruct

Jun 3, 2015
Recently, at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Robotics and Automation Society's flagship conference, researchers from MIT demonstrated an untethered miniature origami robot. Their research describes a robot that can self-fold, walk, swim, and degrade, and they delivered on every one of those promises. Using only a flat sheet with a magnet on it and heat, they were able to control their robot with only the use of magnetic fields. The robot's movement is much more complicated than just dragging a magnet along a sheet, and the complete research papers can be found on the ICRA's website.

This was a first for several reasons, but the biggest focus was on the ability to demonstrate a robot's complete life cycle. Although the robot currently degrades in acetone, the researchers are confident that it can eventually degrade in water. This possibility, as well as the integration of self-folding sensors in the body of the robot, could eventually lead to autonomous operation of the robot. If all of that occurs, this robot could do all of this inside a human body, allowing for medical-discovery tasks to be done in a much less invasive way than they are now.
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