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More Than Meets the Eye: Scientists Create Real-Life Transformers!

Can Megatron be far behind?

Credit: Seth Kroll, Wyss Institute

It’s not quite Optimus Prime, but researchers at Harvard and MIT have created “origami robots” that can transform from flat sheets into tiny, crab-like crawling machines.

The devices are made from five layers of laser-cut materials, including paper, copper and shape-memory polymers that fold in just the right way when heated. They shape-shift in about four minutes and skitter away at more than 2 inches per second.

From there it doesn’t seem too far a leap to robots that can transform into semi-trailers and out-act Megan Fox.

In the nearer term, the technology may be put to use in search-and-rescue robots that slip into tight spaces, self-erecting shelters in disaster zones or — in a development that couldn’t possibly happen soon enough for humanity — Ikea-style furniture that assembles itself.

The study was published in the journal Science.

This article originally appeared on

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