Harvard, MIT, and Cornell researchers have collaborated in creating a self-assembling robot, which looks to me like the first real-world Transformer.
The robot design was inspired by the Japanese art of origami, the folding robot can rearrange itself in minutes from a flat-packed sheet into a strong, motile, structurally complex body plan – without any help from us humans.
Harvard's Robert J. Wood had this to say about it:
"Getting a robot to assemble itself autonomously and actually perform a function has been a milestone we've been chasing for many years."
Cornell physicist and study collaborator Itai Cohen added:
"You can imagine a folded sheet of some material and popping in defects to make a stiff shield, or somehow deploying an object and giving it a rigid backbone. You can think of it as appendages that can be locked in place or a useful tool whose properties can be set once it has been deployed…. It is amazing that there are so many hidden scientific research problems buried in just a simple sheet of paper."
The robot only costs about $100 bucks to make. There's $80 for the motors, batteries and power controller, and about $20 for the body. What's great about the body is that it is made out of paper and Shrinky Dinks. You can read more about the project here. Thanks to io9!