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.
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