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Soft Robots Look to New Environments

Communications of the ACM

The Octobot is fabricated by combining soft lithography, molding, and 3D printing. In a laboratory at Yale University, a soft toy horse with prosthetic coverings around its foam-stuffed legs has taken its first tentative steps. Despite its stiff and not entirely coordinated gait, the toy demonstration may point the way toward helping space agencies put lighter, more versatile robots into space. Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio, assistant professor at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science, says she was wrestling with the problem of how to allow robots to handle a wider variety of jobs than current approaches, which often focus on performing a single function well, when the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) issued a request for novel robot designs based on lighter, plastic approaches. Rather than attempt to lift many single-task robots into orbit, the space agency wants a single reconfigurable machine to be able to handle different tasks and, occasionally, to act as prosthetics for human astronauts.


AI 'skin' designed to help NASA astronauts explore space will 'learn by itself'

#artificialintelligence

Artificial intelligence scientist Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio and her team at Yale University have created a robotic skin to wrap around everyday objects and turn them into a functioning robot. Video footage shows the skin being wrapped around a teddy bear in order to help it walk. But it can be used on a number of different objects as well as being directly wearable – and that's why it is so helpful for the space agency. Currenly building, programming and sending robots on missions outside of Earth is very expensive.


Researchers develop versatile robotic fabric – IAM Network

#artificialintelligence

A fabric robot that can stand up, stiffen to support loads, and soften to change shape or return to flat. Researchers at Yale have developed a robotic fabric, a breakthrough that could lead to such innovations as adaptive clothing, self-deploying shelters, or lightweight shape-changing machinery. The lab of Prof. Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio has created a robotic fabric that includes actuation, sensing, and variable stiffness fibers while retaining all the qualities that make fabric so useful--flexibility, breathability, small storage footprint, and low weight. They demonstrated their robotic fabric going from a flat, ordinary fabric to a standing, load-bearing structure. They also showed a wearable robotic tourniquet and a small airplane with stowable/deployable fabric wings.


Programmable 'skins' turn any household object into a robot

Engadget

When you think of a robot, a certain image probably comes to mind. Maybe it's on wheels, maybe it's a dog, but it's probably a sizeable electronic machine built specifically for a purpose. But what if you could create a flexible robot that could have countless uses, and it could take any shape you wanted? That's what researchers at Yale University have created: a programmable robot "skin" that can turn any object into a robot. Researchers in Rebecca Kramer-Bottoglio's lab placed sensors and actuators onto elastic sheet.


Robotic fabric stiffens and relaxes in response to changes in temperature

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Scientists have created a robotic fabric that stiffens and relaxes in response to changes in temperature, which could be used in emergency situations. The material, developed at Yale University in the US, is equipped with a system of heat sensors and threads that stiffen to change the fabric's shape. Under heat changes, it can bend and twist to transform itself into adaptable clothing, shape-changing machinery and self-erecting shelters. Video footage shows the material going from a flat, ordinary fabric to a load-bearing structure supporting a weight, a model airplane with flexible wings and a wearable robotic tourniquet that activates in response to damage. 'We believe this technology can be leveraged to create self-deploying tents, robotic parachutes, and assistive clothing,' said Professor Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio at Yale University.