TechCrunch is among the many outlets which carry news (based on a release from MIT professor Daniela Rus
) of robots that take advantage of materials engineered to change shape with the application of heat. With carefully planned creases and slits "printed" into flat sheets of plastic, heat-induced deformation can be channeled to create complex three-dimentional shapes
, something between origami and Shrinky-Dinks. The creases can also be used to create moving parts in the finished product, and -- as with papercraft -- folding, overlapping and other techniques can increase the stiffness or otherwise give useful properties to the robot bodies formed. From the article: "This project could also produce a variable resistor by opening or closing an electric component and even create metallic muscles that contract when heated or current is applied. It’s obviously still in very early stages right now but Rus and her team will exhibit the technology at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation this year and maybe, one day, our cake-like robotic servants will rise up and bake us."