Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

The origami kayak and 9 other great folding vehicles

Whoever knew that origami and transport were such good friends? The art of folding offers a dynamic solution for on-the-go city dwellers with limited space. One such offering is the Oru Kayak -- a rigid, fully functioning kayak that folds up to form its own carry case. Whoever knew that origami and transport were such good friends? The art of folding offers a dynamic solution for on-the-go city dwellers with limited space. One such offering is the Oru Kayak -- a rigid, fully functioning kayak that folds up to form its own carry case.
HIDE CAPTION
Kayak in a box
Unfolds in 5 minutes
Foldboat
Space-mobile
Foldable bikes
Moveo scooter
Compact aircraft
Mobi chair
Tri-fold surfboard
Snap skateboard
The new wheel
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.S. Designer Anton Willis has developed a kayak that folds itself into its own portable case
  • Oru Kayak is made from a single sheet of plastic and can be unfolded in under five minutes
  • Willis' Kickstarter campaign reached its $80,000 goal in just five and a half hours

(CNN) -- Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, is believed to date back as far as the 17th century. Traditionally done with a single sheet of paper, its elegant principles have come to influence package design, mathematics and -- more recently -- an unusual new folding kayak.

The Oru kayak is the brainchild of Californian designer Anton Willis. Made from a sheet of plastic (polyethelyne), the entire boat, including paddle, folds down to the size of a large suitcase. While it may not be practical to carry long distances, it can fit into the trunk of a car and be has been designed to be able to be stored in a home closet.

Willis says he was inspired by an article on "advances in the science of origami," which led him to begin sketching ideas for a folding kayak.

Read: Earthquake-proof table uses geometry to save lives

"I started working on this a few years ago and I moved into a studio apartment in San Francisco and had to put my kayak in storage. And at the same time I read this magazine article on origami and people doing new and amazing things with folding technologies and that just got me thinking about if it would be possible to actually build a kayak and fold it up just like a piece of paper," Willis says.

The Oru kayak is made from a double-layered plastic scored with permanently molded creases to allow it to easily fold away. Its single seam sits at the top of the boat and is sealed with watertight rubber gaskets to prevent leaks. Once unfolded, the Oru Kayak is 12-feet long, and about two-feet wide. When folded away it comes to a relatively compact 33 inches by 29 inches.

To gain enough money to get started, Willis began by mounting a crowd-funding campaign. The campaign was so successful that his funding target was met within the first day: "When we Kickstarted our campaign, our goal was to raise $80,000, but we managed to hit that goal in five and a half hours. It was a very magical day."

Origami-inspired kayak unfolds from box

Read: Off-road wheelchair offers freedom for disabled poor

Yves Behar, Chief Creative Officer of the wearable technology company Jawbone, says "I think the kayak is a very ambitious project. I mean, imagine essentially taking a boat and folding it into a backpack ... You have all the dangers of the sea. People are putting themselves out into your kayak, so it's very risky."

But Behar says that the best test of a product's success is whether or not it sells: "I think the product works. It is selling, and it's comfortable (but) the challenge for me is: how big is the kayak market? How big is it as an industry?"

Read: The laser light that could cut cyclist deaths

"People want to make things their own, to build them or enjoy them in their own way."
Yves Behar, Chief Creative Officer of Jawbone

Other folding vehicles have met with differing levels of success. The Brompton folding bicycle has been popular with inner city commuters around the world since its invention in 1979. The folding Razor scooter enjoyed a period of booming success around the beginning of the millennium, but since then sales have diminished. The ICON folding airplane now hopes to "reinvent flying" with its modest scale and low price. And the MIT-backed Hiriko folding car was unveiled in March at the Geneva Motor Show, with production scheduled to begin later this year.

Good design, Behar says, is about ensuring that a product is in line with contemporary thinking and consumer demand: "The key to good design for me is to create products that are really in sync with 21st-century ideas, in sync with the notion that sustainability is something that is obtainable and non-expensive, in sync with the notion that people want to make things their own, to build them or enjoy them in their own way."

Like foldaway, perhaps.

Monique Rivalland contributed to this article

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Liquidity lightbulbs at the Milan Furniture Show 2012
See the full coverage of CNN's Blueprint -- a new series exploring the very latest design and technology trends.
updated 2:01 PM EST, Mon December 9, 2013
A swat team assess risk before raiding a building
A baseball-sized shock absorbent camera that can be thrown into a disaster zone to assess risks posed to rescuers.
updated 2:51 PM EST, Mon November 11, 2013
Astronauts wash and drink from the same continuously recycled source for years. So why do we not do the same on Earth?
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
The Titan Arm
A new strap-on external bicep called the Titan Arm allows humans to lift very heavy objects by giving them instant super strength.
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Fri October 11, 2013
See the origami kayak take shape in our 40-second time lapse video.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Fri September 27, 2013
The Seaboard is a musical instrument like a keyboard that allows you to bend the pitch and volume of each note.
The 'Seaboard keyboard' is a tech forward interpretation of the piano, that reimagines what a keyboard can do.
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Thu September 19, 2013
Phonebloks smartphone
What if you could build your own smartphone that would last you for the rest of your life?
updated 4:49 AM EDT, Tue September 17, 2013
3D printed gun
Why did the Victoria and Albert Museum in London acquire two models of the world's first 3D-printed gun?
updated 6:09 AM EDT, Fri September 13, 2013
It looks like a regular bike light, but one day Emily Brooke's Blaze light could save your life.
updated 6:01 AM EDT, Tue September 10, 2013
After months of hype and speculation, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch arrived this week with a bang... followed by a whimper.
updated 12:16 PM EDT, Mon September 2, 2013
ARMAR is the ultimate sous chef. He'll bring you ingredients from the fridge and after you've made lots of mess he'll load the dishwasher and clean the surfaces. He's just one of a growing army of robo-chefs that are shaping the future of our kitchens.
Your cooking partner is a robot, your fridge can talk, and your plate is your own personal dietician. This is the kitchen of the future
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Wed August 21, 2013
Sound on Intution: sensors attach to your hands,feet and heart to produce music that responds to movement
updated 6:27 AM EDT, Thu August 15, 2013
Not only did Unger have to contend with the typical design challenges of aesthetics and manufacturability, she also needed to become an expert in the reproductive habits of flies.
In 2050, when nine billion people are living on Earth, will high-protein insects be a part of our staple diet?
updated 9:01 AM EDT, Tue August 13, 2013
He's invented breathable food, flavor clouds and olfactory telephones. Now David Edwards is bringing edible food-packaging to the table.
updated 6:31 AM EDT, Tue August 13, 2013
ASAP is a solar-powered life-saving machine that's cheaper, greener and more efficient than a traditional Jet Ski
updated 6:57 AM EDT, Mon August 5, 2013
Transparent dresses, vacuum shoes, shark-proof wetsuits and more. We imagine a day in the life of a wearable technology user in the year 2015.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon July 29, 2013
Europe spends $13 billion annually on fueling street lights. With a new system called 'Tvilight', streetlamps can sense the arrival of a person.
updated 5:19 AM EDT, Mon August 5, 2013
The earthquake-proof table can combat a ton of falling debris and provides reliable protection for people taking shelter during an earthquake
ADVERTISEMENT