When NASA put out a call for soft robotic technologies, Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio and her team at Yale University replied with something remarkable: robotic skins that can wrap around everyday objects, turning almost anything into a moving, grasping robot.
Described this week in Science Robotics, the skins are made of pliable elastic sheets with moving actuators and sensors on one side. They are designed to be reusable and modular, allowing them to be combined in a variety of ways to create different movements and uses, Kramer-Bottiglio explains via email.
In tests in the lab, Kramer-Bottiglio and her team wrapped the skin around the legs of a stuffed animal, and the toy horse lurched forward in an awkward gallop. A foam