Origami, the art of folding pieces of paper to create shapes, is an appealing concept for robotics because you can transform two dimensional materials into three dimensional structures that are inherently flexible, or, as a roboticist would say, "deformable." What's more, structures that fold and unfold enable all kinds of interesting functionality that would otherwise only be possible with systems that are much more complex.
The approach can be particularly useful in designing wheels for robots, and earlier this month at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) two research groups presented origami-inspired wheel systems that allow mobile robots to be nimbler and stronger.
One of the groups was from Seoul National University's BioRobotics Laboratory, led by Professor Kyu-Jin Cho. Researchers there have designed a clever robotic wheel based on one of the most famous origami patterns, the magic ball pattern.
The wheel they created can change its radius by deforming its shape. This is a useful trick to be able to perform, since a wheel with a large radius is better at climbing over things, while a wheel with a smaller radius is better at squeezing under things, as the robot demonstrates in the video below.