Scientists at Yale University 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.
This type of robotic technology could make it possible to use the same skin to add motion to a 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.
“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, has reported. “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 published in the journal Science Robotics. The lab now plans to examine the possibility of 3D printing these components.
Video: Yale University.