Origami is serious business

Remember when your parents told you to stop chasing the dream of becoming the world’s greatest origami artist and get a real job instead? Well, today is your lucky day: you can do both at the same time! Technology has finally reached a point where even our wildest dreams can come true. We have reached a time of seemingly endless possibilities, a time where the only limits are the ones of our own minds. It is an era of Artificial Intelligence, drones, automation, and – most importantly – origami robots.

The idea of swarm robotics in itself is already remarkable. Studying insects has allowed us to take Artificial Intelligence to the next level by replicating collective behavior. Large numbers of robots can now interact and complete tasks together and this is just the beginning. With just a little more research, these swarm robots can potentially change our entire world.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) went a step further. One of the main problems with swarm robotics is that a high number of individual robots is necessary to achieve a proper result, so manufacturing every single one of them can be a tedious process. This is where origami comes in. Self shaping materials make it possible to print large numbers of robots – so called origami robots – in a flat sheet which then separate and assemble themselves at a certain temperature. Those robots then start moving around using vibration motors and voila: a hive mind is born!

Sadly, a couple of challenges have to be overcome before swarm robots can have their desired impact. For now, they can only move on flat surfaces, process very simple tasks and are not particularly robust. As thrilling as the idea of swarm intelligence is, it still lacks some practicability.

However, even a single origami robot can achieve great things. Imagine taking a pill with a robot inside. The pill dissolves inside your digestive system and the tiny robot breaks out to mend wounds or extract something from your body that does not belong there, like a button battery. That is already a reality! Researchers at MIT have developed this “ingestible origami robot” in collaboration with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and experiments have been very successful. Sure, these experiments have not been conducted on humans yet, but that’s only a matter of time. Once the design of these robots is perfected they will be able to solve complicated problems and reduce the risk of countless operations.

Origami robots have just been invented a couple of years ago, and they are already making waves. The field of application is endless, now all we need to do is allow ourselves to imagine.

Jakob Kraushofer(Winner of Blogger’s challenge 2017)

University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien

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