In Pixar and Walt Disney’s Toy Story, the toys are living things that only pretend to be lifeless when humans are around. Well, now new research and technologies are opening up the possibility of bringing such inanimate objects to life.
Yale roboticist Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio and her team have developed a robotic skin that can make inanimate objects move.
The material is called OmniSkin and it's made from sheets of elastic studded with sensors and actuators. The skins can be held in place with zips and other ties, and they are modular, removable and transferable.
They can be wrapped around one object to perform a specific task and then removed and wrapped around another object to perform a completely different task. OmniSkins were recently described in a paper in Science Robotics.
Applications in Space
The technology was originally developed for NASA as a cheaper alternative to sending robotic vehicles up into space. The space agency had put out a call for soft robotics that could be used by astronauts. With the robotic skins, astronauts can wrap them around any objects that are at hand turning them into robots.
“Future astronauts exploring another planet could quickly construct a robot using the robotic skins wrapped around whatever deformable materials they have access to and stick a camera on it, and then deploy the robot for exploration of small or dangerous spaces,” said Kramer-Bottiglio.
For more information read the research article OmniSkins: Robotic skins that turn inanimate objects into multifunctional robots.