Robots are expensive to create, and they're rendered even less cost-effective by the fact that they typically serve only one purpose. After a robot completes its mission, it often must be disassembled and recycled because it is so specialized that it cannot be utilized for other projects.

Enter robotic skins. Developed by mechanical engineers at Yale in partnership with NASA, these devices can be programmed and wrapped around everyday objects to give them robotic abilities, then taken off, reprogrammed, and reapplied to different objects. The repurposable technology can be used in space or on Earth in a variety of contexts, from gathering data on Mars to correcting human posture.

What kinds of learning potential do these robotic skins offer? What challenges might hinder their implementation? Join the discussion on Vialogues.

Excerpts from the discussion:

@00:41 Rebecca Sullivan: The wearable capacity of these robot skins holds a lot of promise. I can see them being useful for physical therapy or athletic training. It's very difficult to be conscious of our body position and posture at all time, and a wearable sensor could give us helpful, real-time feedback on muscle motions or posture.

@00:41 RuthS: I think these robot skins could also present a fun robotic challenge for students, figuring out how to use them on multiple objects to create entirely new robots. It could be a lesson in robot adaptability, fluidity, and creativity.

@01:07 Monica Brown: Being able to build robots on the fly seems cool, but in its current form it seems like this technology could only be used to carry out the most rudimentary tasks. I’d be eager to learn more about NASA’s plans to further develop this technology, and how they envision using flexible robotics.