The most important actuator materials in adaptive structures are shape memory alloys, piezoelectric and magnetostrictive materials and electrorheological fluids. However, no such material is available which would produce rapid and large strokes with high forces. Shape memory alloys exhibit large strokes and forces but their response is slow. Piezoelectric materials and magnetostrictive intermetallics are rapid, but the strokes are small. In the present study, employment of magnetic control of shape memory effect as a principle for rapid large stroke actuator materials is discussed. In such materials, detwinning is controlled by an external magnetic field. Twins in favorable orientation to the magnetic field grow at the expense of other twins and cause a shape change of the actuator. Strokes can be as high as those in shape memory alloys, but response times are short due to magnetic control. Another method which may be applied in actuators is inducing the martensitic transformation and controlling the growth of the martensite plates by magnetostrictive distortions of giant magnetostrictive particles embedded in the shape memory alloy matrix. Magnetostrictive inclusions can also be used as stress sensors in shape memory materials. In pre-stressing and fastening applications, materials which exhibit large strokes and high recovery stresses are required. Nitrogen alloyed shape memory steels, developed for actuators for those applications, is the second topic of this study. In nitrogen alloyed shape memory steels, yield strengths over 1100 MPa and tensile strengths even 1600 MPa were attained. Recoverable strains can be over 4% and recovery stresses 330 MPa. Stresses over 700 MPa were achieved in fasteners at room temperature. Nitrogen alloyed shape memory steels possess good corrosion properties, machinability and weldability (even the welds exhibit shape memory effect). They are economical to manufacture and use and they are expected to have applications in many fields of engineering.