High-tech ‘skins’ turn everyday objects into robots


Making Sugar
Feb 24, 2016
A new type of soft robot gets its power from the skin it’s in.

Robotic skin that bends, stretches and contracts can wrap around inanimate objects like stuffed animals, foam tubes or balloons to create flexible, lightweight robots. Removable, reusable sheets of this artificial skin, described online September 19 in Science Robotics, could also be used to build grippers or wearable devices.

“It’s an interesting approach,” says Christopher Atkeson, a roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who wasn’t involved in the work. In some cases, it may be simpler to use a soft robot ready-made for a specific purpose, like squeezing through tight spaces (SN Online: 7/19/17) or gently grabbing objects (SN: 9/16/17, p. 8). But robotic skins could come in handy for search-and-rescue operations or space exploration — missions where a user might not know in advance what kind of robotic helpers they’ll need, but where packing light is key, Atkeson says.

More At: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/high-tech-skins-turn-everyday-objects-robots