A series of new, origami-like suits turn robots into real-life 'Transformers' that can walk, sail, roll or glide.

The plastic suits start out flat, but when heated fold over the robot to transform it into a specialised machine.

Researchers suggest their adaptable suit-wearing robots could one day be used to build space colonies remotely.

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A series of new, origami-like suits can turn robots into real-life 'transformers' that can walk, sail, roll or glide. Pictured (clockwise from top left): Sailing exoskeleton, gliding exoskeleton, rolling exoskeleton, walking exoskeleton 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The small Primer robots are made of lead and controlled remotely using magnetic fields.

The cubes roll across the table onto a flattened exoskeleton, which sits on top of a heating plate.

Heat is then applied to the suit from below, causing it to fold upwards and form the desired shape.

A boat-shaped exoskeleton allows Primers to sail across water, while a winged add-on primes them for glided flight.

Another suit folds into a wheel for rapid movement, while a fourth gives the robots crude legs to walk with.

The origami exoskeletons were crafted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

In their study, the researchers describe four suits that each require just a few seconds of heat to fold into a pre-determined shape.

A boat-shaped exoskeleton allows cube-like 'Primer' robots to sail across water, while a winged add-on primes them for glided flight.

Another suit folds into a wheel for rapid movement, while a fourth gives the robots a crude walking ability.

Project lead Dr Daniela Rus said: 'If we want robots to help us do things, it's not very efficient to have a different one for each task.

In their paper, the researchers describe four suits that each require just a few seconds of heat to fold into a pre-determined shape, including a boat-shaped exoskeleton (pictured) that allows cube-like 'Primer' robots to sail across water

In their paper, the researchers describe four suits that each require just a few seconds of heat to fold into a pre-determined shape, including a boat-shaped exoskeleton (pictured) that allows cube-like 'Primer' robots to sail across water

A winged add-on (pictured) created by the team primes the small robots for glided flight

A winged add-on (pictured) created by the team primes the small robots for glided flight

In their paper, the researchers describe four suits that each require just a few seconds of heat to fold into a pre-determined shape. A boat-shaped exoskeleton (left) allows cube-like 'Primer' robots to sail across water, while a winged add-on (right) primes them for glided flight

WHAT COULD THEY BE USED FOR? 

In the future the team suggests larger versions of these adaptable robots could be used to complete a series of complex tasks remotely. 

They could be used to help build distant space colonies, or in deep-sea mining operations.

Team member Shuguang Li, said: 'Imagine future applications for space exploration, where you could send a single robot with a stack of exoskeletons to Mars.

'The robot could then perform different tasks by wearing different “outfits”.'

'With this metamorphosis-inspired approach, we can extend the capabilities of a single robot by giving it different “accessories” to use in different situations.'

The small Primer robots are made of lead and controlled remotely using magnetic fields.

The cubes roll across the table onto a flattened exoskeleton, which sits on top of a heating plate.

Heat is then applied to the suit from below, causing it to fold upwards and form the desired shape.

A Primer can even wear multiple exoskeletons at once to combine their abilities.

It can add one exoskeleton to become 'Walk-bot,' and then interface with another, larger one that allows it to carry objects and move two body lengths per second.

The small Primer robots are made of lead and controlled remotely using magnetic fields. The cubes roll across the table onto a flattened exoskeleton, which sits on top of a heating plate. Pictured is a diagram showing how the 'Wheel-bot' and 'Walk-bot' are formed

The small Primer robots are made of lead and controlled remotely using magnetic fields. The cubes roll across the table onto a flattened exoskeleton, which sits on top of a heating plate. Pictured is a diagram showing how the 'Wheel-bot' and 'Walk-bot' are formed

The small Primer robots are made of lead and controlled remotely using magnetic fields. The cubes roll across the table onto a flattened exoskeleton, which sits on top of a heating plate. Pictured is a diagram showing how the 'Wheel-bot' and 'Walk-bot' are formed

Another suit folds into a wheel (pictured) for rapid movement

Another suit folds into a wheel (pictured) for rapid movement

A fourth exoskeleton (pictured) gives the robots a crude walking ability

A fourth exoskeleton (pictured) gives the robots a crude walking ability

Another suit folds into a wheel (left) for rapid movement, while a fourth (right) gives the robots a crude walking ability

To deploy the second exoskeleton, 'Walk-bot' steps onto the sheet, which then blankets it with its four self-folding arms.

The Primer detaches itself from exoskeletons by vibrating for around a minute, or by diving into water.

In the future the team suggests larger versions of these adaptable robots could be used to complete a series of complex tasks remotely.

A Primer robot adds one exoskeleton to become a basic 'Walk-bot,' and then interfaces with another, larger one later on that allows it to carry objects and move two body lengths per second (1st-shape). It can then extend into a more complex, second shape

A Primer robot adds one exoskeleton to become a basic 'Walk-bot,' and then interfaces with another, larger one later on that allows it to carry objects and move two body lengths per second (1st-shape). It can then extend into a more complex, second shape

A Primer robot adds one exoskeleton to become a basic 'Walk-bot,' and then interfaces with another, larger one later on that allows it to carry objects and move two body lengths per second (1st-shape). It can then extend into a more complex, second shape

In future the team suggest larger version of these adaptable robots could be used to complete a series of complex tasks remotely. They could be used to help build distant space colonies, or in deep-sea mining operations

In future the team suggest larger version of these adaptable robots could be used to complete a series of complex tasks remotely. They could be used to help build distant space colonies, or in deep-sea mining operations

In future the team suggest larger version of these adaptable robots could be used to complete a series of complex tasks remotely. They could be used to help build distant space colonies, or in deep-sea mining operations

Heat is applied to each suit from below, causing it to fold upwards and form the desired shape by dissolving some parts and activating others

Heat is applied to each suit from below, causing it to fold upwards and form the desired shape by dissolving some parts and activating others

Heat is applied to each suit from below, causing it to fold upwards and form the desired shape by dissolving some parts and activating others

They could be used to help build distant space colonies, or in deep-sea mining operations.

Team member Shuguang Li, said: 'Imagine future applications for space exploration, where you could send a single robot with a stack of exoskeletons to Mars.

'The robot could then perform different tasks by wearing different “outfits”.'

A series of new, origami-like suits can turn robots into real-life 'Transformers' that can walk, sail, roll or glide

A series of new, origami-like suits can turn robots into real-life 'Transformers' that can walk, sail, roll or glide

A series of new, origami-like suits can turn robots into real-life 'Transformers' that can walk, sail, roll or glide

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