MIT is offering a new technology with programmable shape-changing behaviors - aeroMorph.
(MIT aeroMorph technology in action video)
The project investigates how to make origami structure with inflatables with various materials. We introduce a universal bending mechanism that creates programmable shape-changing behaviors with paper, plastics and fabrics. We developed a software tool that generates this bending mechanism for a given geometry, simulates its transformation, and exports the compound geometry as digital fabrication files. A custom heat-sealing head that can be mounted on usual 3-axis CNC machines to precisely fabricate the designed transforming material is presented. We envision this technology could be used for designing interactive wearables, toys, and packaging industry.
My own introduction to the idea of a shape memory materials was in Samuel R. Delany's 1966 novel Babel-17; see the entry for tensile memory polarized matter.
"Annealed in any shape for a time, and codified, the structure of that shape is retained down to the molecules. At any angle to the direction that the matter has been polarized in, each molecule has completely free movement. Just jar it, and it falls into that structure like a rubber figure returning to shape."