Researchers at Yale University have developed a new technology called "robotic skin" which uses synthetic material embedded with robotic functions to transform everyday objects into robots.
The synthetic skins are made of elastic sheets and have built-in sensors and actuators which merge together to create makeshift bots that allow for movement of objects.
In recent tests conducted by the university, the robotic skin was put on a toy horse which could then be made to move its legs and walk.
"Robotic skins can be applied to, removed from, and transferred between different objects, and used in combination to create many different configurations to perform many different tasks," Yale assistant professor and research director Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio said in an email to NBC News, as reported by Euronews.
The technology was originally developed to provide NASA with repurposable hardware in space due to the high costs of sending multiple robots into space, but it could have wider uses.
Kramer-Bottiglio said that the robots could potentially perform significant tasks in hazard or disaster zones.
"A designer could quickly construct a robot using the robotic skins wrapped around whatever deformable materials they have access to and stick a camera on it, and then deploy the robot for exploration of small or dangerous spaces," she wrote.
Conor Walsh, assistant professor at Harvard University, said the study is exciting as it "demonstrates the versatility and adaptability of soft robotics."
Kramer-Bottiglio said she would like to test the robotic skin on different materials and already has ideas to develop the research.
"I'm really excited to see what other people will do with robotic skins. The possibilities are endless," she said.