Freaky Robotic Skin Brings Inanimate Objects to Life

Federico Mansilla
Setiembre 21, 2018

OmniSkins is made from elastic sheets embedded with sensors and actuators. In a paper published yesterday (Sept. 19) in the journal Science Robotics, the researchers wrote that the same "OmniSkin" can be used on a wide range of different "soft bodies" to get them moving.

Typically, robots are built to perform a single task.

Each makeshift robot can perform a different task depending on the properties of the object (it helps if it's soft, so it can be molded slightly) and the specific way the skin is applied.

Researchers from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, USA, developed robotic skins to let users design more adaptable robotic systems, according to a statement. The robotic skins, however, allow users to create multi-functional robots on the fly.

While it's good fun to watch a stuffed horse saunter across a tabletop, the Yale researchers have far more practical applications in mind for the robotic skin.

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The results of the team's work were published on September 19 in Science Robotics, and Kramer-Bottiglio has said her lab's next step is streamlining the devices and the possibility of using 3D printing to manufacture the components.

Kramer-Bottiglio said she came up with the idea for the devices a few years ago when NASA put out a call for soft robotic systems. It was also used to create a gripper capable of grabbing and moving objects, and a wearable device that, when worn as a t-shirt, corrects poor posture.

The technology was designed in partnership with NASA, and its multifunctional and reusable nature would allow astronauts to accomplish an array of tasks with the same reconfigurable material. Because resources are limited in space, a versatile system like robotic skins can be used as a robotic arm at one point and a planetary surface rover in another.

"One of the main things I considered was the importance of multifunctionality, especially for deep space exploration where the environment is unpredictable", said Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio, Assistant Professor at the varsity.

Kramer-Bottiglio's team is now streamlining the technology and exploring the possibilities of 3D printing robotic skin components.

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