"Robotics aren't the only way to design objects that transform," said John Brownlee at Fast Company‚Äč. Students at MIT's Tangible Media Group have created "origami-like" inflatables dubbed Aeromorphs that can transform into shapes when filled with air.

(Tangible Media Group/MIT Media Lab)

The technology works a bit like sophisticated bubble wrap, with air pockets sewn into paper, plastic, or fabric. When inflated, the flat material transforms into its intended shape. Aeromorphs could open the door to new kinds of toys, wearable devices, packaging methods, car air bags, and more. Researchers using the technology could create flat-pack sneakers "that can be pumped full of air to be worn," or a backpack that changes its shape depending on what's inside. Toy makers could "design soft teddy bears that hug kids back." And like bubble wrap, Aeromorphs could also be used for packaging, by creating thin, light airbags that wrap around a product during shipping.