A group of researchers from Harvard and MIT have pushed us closer to a world of programmable matter. Their approach is a self-folding surface that can take on almost any shape. The above video from ScienceMag shows the surface turning into a small sailboat and paper plane. [via slashdot]

Based on the ancient art of origami, the sheets are edged by foil actuators–thin, solid-state motors–that contract or expand when they receive an electric current from flexible electronic circuits embedded in the sheets. After they achieve their preprogrammed shape, the sheets are held in place by tiny magnets on the edges of the fold joints.