MIT has developed a tiny robot that begins its life as a printed tile just one-centimeter square. When exposed to heat, this aptly-named “origami bot” will fold itself up into its mobile form and can be manipulated via magnetic-fields to make it move around and perform tasks. For now, the robot is controlled by user-generated magnetic forces, but one day this motion could be programmed by computers to give these micro-tools more autonomous actuation.

The “origami bot” is capable of navigating obstacle courses, moving and carrying tiny objects, and even swimming. Since this robot is composed of a miniature magnet and a small amount of cheap materials, it could be a very cost effective way of developing robots that could one day be used to administer medical treatments inside living bodies. At the moment, researchers are experimenting with ways to use these micro explorers for investigative purposes in hard to reach places.

Click here for more about this research from the MIT News office.