Yale scientists have developed a robotic skin that can be applied to inanimate objects, seemingly bringing them to life.
The elastic 'skin' sheets are embedded with a variety of sensors and actuators capable of animating the legs of a stuffed animal or causing a foam tube to flex.
Creating multiple robots technology like this could make it possible to use the same skin to add motion to a wide range of motionless items. Prototypes created by the team include foam cylinders able to crawl on the ground and a robot gripper that can grasp and move objects. Researchers have even created a wearable shirt that can assist with correcting bad posture, and the robotic skin is affixed to an object using a series of zips or ties.
"We can take the skins and wrap them around one object to perform a task – locomotion, for example – and then take them off and put them on a different object to perform a different task, such as grasping and moving an object," Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio, lead researcher on the project, said in a statement. "We can then take those same skins off that object and put them on a shirt to make an active wearable device."
A paper describing the work, titled Omniskins: robotic skins that turn inanimate objects into multifunctional robots was recently published in the Journal Science Robotics and the lab now plans to examine the possibility of 3D printing these components.
In the meantime, you can see the robotic skin in action, below.