Animated toys: innovative skin turns ordinary objects into robots

SL, Четверг 20 Сентябрь 2018 - 14:55:22

When it comes to robots, most people is kind of complicated and generally rigid structure that is designed to perform a specific task. However, engineers are confident the time has come to expand the boundaries of robotics to create technology that will allow you to "automate" any, or almost any subject.

But how to turn, for example, a soft toy rolling robot? And will it be possible to manage such a device?

The answers to these questions are found scientists from Yale University. They presented the technology to create a fundamentally new kind of "robocode" called OmniSkins that allows you to "animate" objects and manipulate them.

Head of research group Rebecca Kramer-Botillo (Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio) explained that her team abandoned the "whole" robocode and instead constructed a few fragments. They are the soft layers of flexible polymer or tissue in which are embedded sensors and actuators.

Fragments equipped with air bags that inflate when filled with gas, and spirals of nitinol (a material with the property of shape memory), which change when heated. These elements allow robocode to change shape and force the subject to which it is stretched, to move.

It is noted that due to the softness and elasticity of the skin perfectly follows the shape of the object (it becomes a kind of framework or skeleton). Each fragment is removable, it can be used for absolutely different subjects. For example, OmniSkins may force to move a soft toy, or to turn an ordinary garment into an active wearable device.

Moreover, if one thing to put on a few fragments robocode, he will be able to perform several types of movements. For example, leather could cause the object to shrink and bend at the same time, says Kramer, Bottillo.

To demonstrate the capabilities of technology, and her colleagues have created several prototypes on the remote control. Among them, a cylindrical foam tube, which is forced to crawl like worms, plain shirt that was turned into clothing for correct posture, a toy horse that was forced to move on a flat surface, and the foam "fingers" that have acquired the ability to grab and move objects.


The authors explain that the versatility was their main goal. The new robotic skin does not specify the specific "settings" that narrow capabilities of conventional robots. "Revived" the subject can be used for any purpose: from search and rescue to space exploration.

By the way, the technology was developed in partnership with NASA. Experts believe that soft removable material is suitable for many tasks and make life easier for astronauts. It can be used, for example, to drive a car on Mars or turn into robots any items on Board the spacecraft.

But first, engineers plan to improve the design and to check whether to create the components robocode method three-dimensional printing.

Learn more about the new development is covered in the article, which was published in the journal Science Robotics.

Recall that researchers continue to improve and the "classic" skin for robots, thanks to which they acquire the sensitivity and tactile memory. The authors of the project "Conduct.Science" ( also wrote about the e-skin, which renews itself.

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