Programmable 'skins' turn any household object into a robot

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 21, 2018

When you think of robotics, you likely think of something rigid, heavy, and built for a specific goal.

The skins, developed and designed by researchers at the Yale University in partnership with NASA, could be used for everything from search-and-rescue robots to animate the inanimate everyday objects to wearable technologies. Using a controller, the team can direct the skin to contract, hold, or release. The findings were published today in the journal Science Robotics.

The skins are made from elastic sheets embedded with sensors and actuators developed in Kramer-Bottiglio's lab. Once the sheets are put onto an object - for example, a stuffed animal - the robotic skin can animate it. However, the "robotic skin" goes against this stereotype and even has the ability to turn non-robotic items like stuffed toys into makeshift robots.

The image of a robot usually includes hard metal parts, wiring and a singular goal. The robotic skins, however, allow users to create multi-functional robots on the fly. For instance, Kramer-Bottiglio said, you can layer the skins to get different types of motion.

"Now we can get combined modes of actuation - for example, simultaneous compression and bending", she said.

Once wrapped around a pliable item, the robotic skins can be programmed to produce a number of actions such as grasping and locomotion.

Existing prototypes built by the researchers include foam cylinders that move like a worm, a wearable device to correct posture, and a gripper-like hand.

Kramer-Bottiglio came up with the idea a few years ago when NASA asked developers to make better and more versatile soft robotic systems. More conceptually, the system could be used to create a soft, ball-shaped Mars rover capable of rolling and bouncing over the Red Planet's hard terrain.

With the robotic skins on board, anything from balloons to balls of crumpled paper could potentially be made into a robot with a goal.

The project is a bit funny-looking, but Kramer-Bottiglio said it has a serious goal: to help NASA prepare for the unknown environments of deep space exploration.

Altre relazioniGrafFiotech

Discuti questo articolo

Segui i nostri GIORNALE