credit: Sam Felton

Google is busy building four-legged robots of its own, but we may not have to wait until Google builds its gigantic robots in order to implement them into our world.

A new experiment done by Harvard and MIT researchers shows how origami-folding paper self-assembles into a robot in about four minutes, then crawls away on its own without human intervention. The robot (and others like it) measure out to be 6 inches long, 6 inches wide, 2 inches tall, and are no bigger than an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. While these are small robots that weigh no more than 3 ounces, larger ones can be built—although they would require more paper and more materials (and thus, cost more).

Not only are these robots cheap to build (under $1,000 each), but the robots could be used for all sorts of leisure and work missions. “In principle it will be possible to say, ‘I want a robot to play chess with me,’ and generate a machine that has the computational abilities to play chess with you,” said MIT study co-author Daniela Rus. She is joined in the study by lead author and Harvard robotics researcher Sam Felton.

Robots could very well become the next big thing on the technology frontier, and many believe that robots will place much of the human manual labor in our world. Currently, restaurants such as McDonald’s are toying with the idea of having automated machines take orders instead of human beings. Machines would be easier to afford (a one-time fee instead of a yearly income) and would work well until they stand in need of repair. Robots could become a valuable source of company income if they work effectively and help to save on costs in the long-term.

The results of this origami-folding robot experiment were published today in the Science Journal.