Typically, robots are built to perform a single task.
The creators developed this skin with elastic sheets. The robots can be controlled remotely by an operator or by using built-in light sensors. That means they can be used in settings that hadn't even been considered when they were designed, said Kramer-Bottiglio.
Originally designed for NASA, the robotic skins developed by researchers at Yale University can be wrapped around everyday objects and programmed to do specific tasks. Placed on a deformable object the skins animate these objects from their surfaces. Wrap the sheets around pretty much anything flexible - such as the stuffed horse in the video - and you can program it to move. The makeshift robots can perform different tasks depending on the properties of the soft objects and how the skins are applied. "We can then take those same skins off that object and put them on a shirt to make an active wearable device", said Professor Kramer-Bottiglio. Perhaps we make them to help in the production of vehicles or to disarm a bomb.
She said robotic skins enable "robot design on-the-fly".
Robots are typically built for a single objective but the robotic skins allow users to create ad hoc multi-functional robots that can be used in settings that hadn't been considered when they were designed, said Kramer-Bottiglio.
Additionally, using more than one skin at a time allows for more complex movements.
In the future, Kramer-Bottiglio hopes that the skins will be able to learn by themselves using data from the sensors. She is also interested in soft material manufacturing and soft-bodied control.
The scientists created a handful of prototypes to demonstrate the robotic skins in action. For example, foam cylinders that shift from one place to another like an inchworm or a wearable tech device that is aimed at correcting bad postures. There was also a device with a gripper that could grasp and move things. That was when Prof.
One potential answer: have a few robotic skins handy. After all, the researchers were developing this technology in partnership with NASA. The authors say that its reusable and multi-functional features will allow astronauts to carry out a range of tasks with the same material.
A typical robotic arm, for example, is static, solid and only interacts with its environment in a prescribed way.
Research published today in the journal Science Robotics shows how versatile robotic skins embedded with sensors can transform nearly any soft object and make it move.