An Autodesk researcher has created a tool that lets anyone design any kind of paper airplane they want, optimized for maximum flight. Autodesk

We've all made the standard paper airplane, that elongated triangle made up of six simple folds. But what if you wanted to make a paper airplane that looks like an armadillo? Could you get that to fly?

If you're using Pteromys, a new research tool created at Autodesk, the answer is yes.

Autodesk researchers on Tuesday will present a paper at the SIGGRAPH graphics and design conference outlining a system that helps users turn just about any concept for a paper airplane -- no matter how bizarre or extreme and no matter how much or how little experience the user has with flight dynamics -- into a streamlined, aerodynamic flying wonder.

Pteromys is the brainchild of Nobuyuki Umetani, a post-doctoral scientist who spent a year working at Autodesk Research in Toronto. The science behind Pteromys is complex, relying on Umetani's years studying computer graphics and physical simulations for interactive and aerodynamics.

Make it Fly

For users, it's simple: Draw a digital plane design in the tool, click the "Make it Fly" button, and sit back as it instantly optimizes the design for maximum air time. Even better, the system can transmit the design to a laser cutter, which quickly spits out an easily-constructed version of the user's plane. Then it's time to go flying.

The results can be surprising, with designs that make it possible for everything from an armadillo to a dragon, to soar. It's that surprise element that led to the project's title, which is a scientific name for a flying squirrel . "I asked why we were calling it" Pteromys, said Ryan Schmidt, an Autodesk Research scientist who oversaw Umetani's work. Umetani replied, "'Isn't it obvious? It's something that shouldn't fly, but does."

A tool for creating crazy paper airplane designs (pictures) See full gallery

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