Laura Heyderman (left) and Tian-Yun Huang (center) look at a model of the origami bird, while Jizhai Cui observes the real microrobot under a microscope. (Photo: Paul Scherrer Institute/Mahir Dzambegovic)

Researchers developed a microrobot that measures a few micrometers across and resembles a paper bird made with origami. It flaps its wings or bends its neck and retracts its head via magnetism. The movements take place within milliseconds; programming of the nanomagnets only takes a few nanoseconds.

The concept is an important step towards micro- and nanorobots that not only store information to give a particular action but also can be reprogrammed to carry out different tasks.