Hey, kids! Question: let's say your mom is harping on you for having all of your stuffed animals scattered across your room and she commands you to put them all back where they belong. Would it not be great if they could put themselves back?
A new technology exists that may pave the way for that kind of reality.
Mechanical engineers from Yale University have developed a special "skin" that could turn almost any inanimate object into a robot. The skin consists of an elastic sheet, integrated with moving actuators and sensors, and is designed to wrap around the object you wish to mechanize, allowing it to move on its own.
As explained by Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Yale, the project was conducted with the purpose of developing a new kind of hardware for NASA. With the cost of sending a series of robots with multiple functions into space as expensive as it is, the idea was to create a technology that could be reused, repurposed, and even alleviate the problems caused by defunct or lost materials. Eventually, the design of their hardware evolved into a "soft" ware that could apply to virtually any object.
Outside of space exploration, the skins have been praised for the potential use in aiding human beings with physical disabilities, such as by wrapping the skin around a pair of immobile legs and giving them the ability to walk or applying the tech to a shirt that could help correct posture.
However, some praise has been more interesting than others.
Of course, with any announcement of cutting edge, potentially revolutionary developments in technology, technophobia ensues.
Potential horror? Why would an invention that brings cute little animals to life be so scary?
OK, perhaps 'stuffed animal Terminators' is a bit of a stretch. However, the concern for societal repercussions from a potentially revolutionary advancement in mechanical engineering is fair. This is why:
Practicality can and, for the sake of humanity, probably should only go so far. If we apply a technology that could change lives to something that has no use living, we allow ourselves to give in to the impractical. We already live in a world in which disembodied voices manage our schedules or turn our lights on and off and even the bloody self-driving car exists. [shudder] What is the next aspect of life we will rely on technology to handle for us?
Does a self-moving stuffed animal, or even a toaster that brings your food to you, interest you, or are you afraid you may eventually fall victim to a robot overlord? Let us know in the comments below!
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