Your new robot overlords can actually build themselves

They sound like real-life transformers – the toys that can change from one shape into another – but these robots are perhaps more akin to the flat-packed world of an Ikea catalogue.

Scientists have taken the idea of self-assembly so seriously they have come up with a self-folding robot that can spring out of a flat surface, create its own legs and spontaneously crawl away – something that no Ikea table has yet done. The crawling robot is the first machine to assemble itself.

“We demonstrated this process by building a robot that folds itself and walks away without human assistance,” said Sam Felton of Harvard University, one of the researchers who designed the self-folding robots.

In just four minutes, the flat surface of etched electrical circuitry can be powered up into a 3D functional machine with four legs that can crawl away at a speed of about two inches per second.