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Science

Programmable Origami 84

Posted by kdawson
from the man-who-folded-himself dept.
sciencehabit sends this snip from Science Magazine, with included video: "Researchers have created flat sheets of composite material that can fold themselves into toy boats, tents, and even paper airplanes. Based on the ancient art of origami, the sheets are edged by foil actuators — thin, solid-state motors — that contract or expand when they receive an electric current from flexible electronic circuits embedded in the sheets. After they achieve their preprogrammed shape, the sheets are held in place by tiny magnets on the edges of the fold joints. Researchers say the technology could be scaled up to create ultra-portable tripods or even cups that automatically adjust to the size of liquid being poured into them."
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Programmable Origami

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  • by bezenek (958723) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:21AM (#32727118) Journal

    Cool stuff!

    -Todd

  • MMMMMMM! Origami! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:48AM (#32727262)

    As an origamist with an interest in nanotechnology, I could see a few EXTREMELY useful applications for this. I heard it said once that scientists were testing the idea that nano-switches for computer chips could be folded from nano-sheets of metal. Imagine a computer with hardware that literally reforms its self to accomplish new tasks on the fly. Given, programming it would be about the most difficult thing to accomplish, but it would still be a fun toy to play with...

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      literal protein folding @home
    • Am I the only one who wanted to line all of his clothes with these things and program them to fold themselves when they're out of the wash?

      Wait - is circuitry any better at withstanding water and detergent yet?

      • by kramulous (977841)

        I don't really care about folding themselves. More that I want them to wash, dry and put themselves away.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        bah, make the clothes so that they can expand or contract on command, and you got the beginning of a certain set of sneakers.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      What would the multitasking performance be like?

    • As an origamist with an interest in nanotechnology ...

      Allow me to ask a possibly related, but less interesting question from those who are so wise in the ways of science:

      How are corrugated boxes designed?

      It's never ceased to amaze me how someone can create a box that maximises the number of items that can be packed, minimises wasted space (and, presumably, material used in construction), meets strength tests, and then conforms to dimensions (and/or weight) dictated by shipping requirements.

      I'm trying to pic

      • I'm trying to picture something other than a bunch of guys in labcoats standing around trying to pile clay replicas of the items to be packed

        I hope the Tetris music is playing in the background?

    • by 2themax (681779)

      Imagine a computer with hardware that literally reforms its self to accomplish new tasks on the fly.

      Reconfigurable computing is already possible with FPGAs [wikipedia.org]. You can't go and buy commodity x86-type hardware such as CPUs or GPUs just yet, but "soon" (sooner than practical nuclear fusion, later than DNF) it will happen.

  • by Ssherby (1429933) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @01:53AM (#32727276)
    OMG!

    A self adjusting drinking cup!

    If I had a nickel for every time I had a cup that was too big or too small for what I wanted to pour into it, I could fund the research on this project myself. Oh, and an ultra-light weight tripod!

    This will be awesome! Surely the greatest thing since sliced bread!

    Seriously though, couldn't they dream up some future use examples that were a bit more practical? Is there really a demand for light weight tripods and self adjusting drinking cups?
    • by M8e (1008767)

      "cups that automatically adjust to the size of liquid being poured into them." is just stupid.

      It have to automatically adjust to the size of your cupholder and the liquids temperature (automatically folds out a handle if the liquid is to hot)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jez9999 (618189)

      A self-adjusting drinking cup would be ideal for BP though, they could just put one over the leaking well and watch it expand.

    • A self adjusting drinking cup

      Maybe not important to you, but it may be interesting to someone like McDonald's.
      Probably not at the current prices though, but 30-50 years down the road...

      Oh, and an ultra-light weight tripod!

      Maybe not important to you, but it may be interesting to someone like **insert major camera/mobile phone manufacturer here**.

      Actually, those are pretty good examples - if you are looking for more immediate funding AND you don't feel like lying through your teeth about possible capabilities of your invention.
      Although, they WILL probably have to do more ly

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Yoozer (1055188)
      It's typical for engineers: some people say the glass of water is half full, others say it's half empty - and engineers call it twice as big as it should've been.
    • by Arimus (198136)

      I know a lot of photographers or survey engineers for whom a lightweight compact tripod would be a godsend...

      Just because you have no practical use for it doesn't mean there isn't one.

    • Think like a truck driver, dude. A "self-adjustable drinking cup" would make those long haul trips much faster, when the "tripod" needs an empty. Third leg 'ahoy!
    • I'd be interested to see if they could translate the movement into mobility, using it to move around. A few more iterations and you might conceivably have flapping bird wings that work, or something that could inch its way under a door before reforming into something else. I'd say this is almost more interesting than the fact of forming multiple shapes.
    • by anexkahn (935249)
      I usually just leave the cup half empty...
    • by MobyDisk (75490) *

      I'd settle for self-adjusting cup holders. I'm on my 3rd car, and I've never found a cup that fits into any of the cup holders.

  • I'm waiting for programmable okonomiyaki.

  • What a silly-looking "invention". The actuators they've developed may indeed be useful but this video makes it hard to imagine a single real application. Dynamically-resizing folding cups? I can't wait!

    • by osu-neko (2604)

      What a silly-looking "invention". The actuators they've developed may indeed be useful but this video makes it hard to imagine a single real application. Dynamically-resizing folding cups? I can't wait!

      The need for this was anticipated and articulated a couple decades ago by George Carlin:

      Some people say the glass is half empty, some people say the glass is half full. I say the glass is too big!

  • by LambdaWolf (1561517) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:45AM (#32727508)

    But what language do you use to program a blank sheet of paper?

    I can guess... [dur.ac.uk]

  • This is another step to the ultimate device for freeloaders: the universal compiler machine.
    Probably a "universal" compiler machine is imposible (other than atom-by-atom build?), but especialized machines are probabbly possible, and heres one. The best use for this type of technology is generate a colony of self-replicant robots near the dark side of the moon. I doubt it will be possible to build all the elements on the moon itself, but the more you can build there (and I can see how a origami structure can

    • by daveime (1253762)

      I thought weight was a bigger constraint than size when it came to space flights ?

      In which case, don't matter how small it's folded up, it'll still weigh the same.

      • by Tei (520358)

        if you made the base material on the moon, and only moves the esential components, you have to move less weight.

  • Hardly. How about...

    shape-changing robots that can fit into nearly any space and will kill us all!

  • Remote Construction (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CaptainOfSpray (1229754) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @04:12AM (#32727788)
    This will be how we make the first self-erecting buildings of our Moon base , with no astronauts present until they are ready for occupation. Also it will be how our explorers on Mars carry their emergency shelters, for when they have to wait to be rescued after digging their rover into a sandpit.
    • I'd think a balloon would be a lot more affective and less failure prone.
      • Unfortunately, the surface of the Moon (and I guess probably Mars, too) is subject to a continuous bombardment of infalling space debris and ejecta from other impacts. So a balloon is going to get punctured.[obligatory secondary debate "but you can make it strong enough", "that makes it too heavy to transport from Earth", blah blah]
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          NASA had a Lunar building contest, the winner revealed that the lunar soil can be piled and melted with sunlight, and thus made into walls etc. The interior of such a structure will have an inflatable installed into it. This problem has already been solved, and in a much more clever fashion even than this.

    • You don't have to look so far ahead: you can use it to unfold solar panels on satellites. It would make it much easier to deploy (and change the angle of) large solar panels on small simple satellites. they have to be launched in a very compact state and deploy (obviously) without help.
  • Drinking cups that are being held together with magnets? Oh ho ho! I smell an office prank with a degausser!

  • Something about the mindless optimism of the scientists always makes me smile. They produce a sheet the size of a playing card that can slowly fold itself into a few predetermined shapes. While this is impressive, the technology is clearly miles away from tripods and auto-adjusting cups. This is a symptom of a research framework that only focuses on marketable products, and doesn't give a stuff about the actual progress being made.
  • Do it with a driving semi turning into a 50 meter tall robot - then we'll talk!

  • Admit it -- you're already thinking about how you can use this technology in bed.
  • Ob (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @08:13AM (#32729520) Homepage Journal

    Well it sounds feasible on paper.

  • Seriously, the US Air Force has had this technology since 1946 and now we're just catching up?

  • Researchers say the technology could be scaled up to create ultra-portable tripods or even cups that automatically adjust to the size of liquid being poured into them."

    No longer will I suffer the burden of having to carry a stone age, brain teasing carbon fiber tripod, or have to navigate the treacherous gymnastic maze of not overflowing a cup at the soda fountain!

    Way to think BIG, summary!

  • "This was awarded first prize in the Increase Lazy Children Toy Show.

    Second prize went to Shrinky-Dinks that came with software and a little robot. The child surfs their site for a color scheme they liked from among dozens others have uploaded, then pushes a button, wherein the robot colors it, sticks it in the oven and shrinks it, then takes it out and heaves it into the bottom of the toy box for the child."

  • IBM's Watson and now this... Skynet and a liquid metal T-1000 can't be far away.

Building translators is good clean fun. -- T. Cheatham

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