This Is Next-Level Origami

From dancing cranes to protective structures, origami is popping up in science and tech

Origami, the art of paper-folding, is known more for its elementary school applications than its street cred. But that could be changing as the traditional art finds its way to the world of science and technology.

Take these perfectly synchronized dancing origami cranes. io9 reports that they’re powered by an electromagnetic box and a set of magnets. The mesmerizing routine is the work of an anonymous man who posts his experiments with making everyday objects move using electrical engineering on his website Ugoita. “A salaryman toils away on electronic engineering during the weekend,” Spoon Tamago translates. “Everything that I’ve somehow gotten to move is shown on this page.”

And physicists are getting in on the origami action, too. A recent meeting of the American Physical Society featured no fewer than 12 papers on the “extreme mechanics” of origami, from mathematical explorations of the exponential number of shapes that can be derived from a simple origami fold to looking at how origami can be deployed in the real world.

New Scientist reports that a group of scientists presented a “precision-folded origami shield” at the meeting. The doughnut-like shield is made of laser-scored paper with a hole in the center, and it does something pretty neat. As you apply pressure along the sides of the folded shield, it starts to compress—but the hole in the middle stays the same size.

Bin Liu, who created the shield, tells New Scientist that it’s more than a cool-looking trick…in the future, folded technology could “bring robust structure into light and soft materials.”