The Next Revolution In Paper Play — Robotic Origami

<p>Jie Qi makes the first folds into origami robotics.</p>

Jun 17 2011, 4:16pm

Paper planes and paper cranes, most of us have tried our hand at folding mini caricatures of our childhood fancies. Creasing and tucking with the utmost precision, often with varying degrees of success, depending on the complexity of the figure and your skill level. Not to worry though, fold no further because the beginning of origami robotics is just a few creases away.

Emerging from the High-Low Tech group at MIT, Jie Qi takes the first steps towards revolutionizing the Japanese art of paper folding. As part of her final project, she demonstrates the communication between input/output paper through two pieces of origami paper that are wirelessly linked. Check out her website for the detailed how-to's.

In the video above, the red paper acts as the input or controller, sensing how it is being folded through resistive crease sensors. The white paper, as the output, follows the movements of the red paper, actuating a self-folding motion through flexinol wires or shape memory alloy. The blintz fold, or the folding of a square's corners into the center, gives the white paper the ability to actually wobble around, flip over, and tilt over on its own.

As if self-folding paper isn't exciting enough, Qi moves on to produce wax paper cranes that self-flap. Again using flexinol wires, she's able to trigger through heat the curving motion of the crane's wings. In the video below, Qi demonstrates the communication between two love birds that are electronically modified to interact via xbee radios. Once one bird starts flapping, a switch triggers the other to light up.