Graduate students have developed a stretchy, light-up fabric that mimics an octopus skin, and say they want to adapt it to make "mood robots."
The light-emitting skin can change color even as it's stretched and twisted, the team reports in the journal Science.
The hyperelastic, light-emitting capacitor was made using hydrogel electrodes embedded in silicone. The team at Cornell University that oversaw the work uses metals such as copper to give it the ability to change color.
And the design allows the material to detect its environment, so it can register if it's on a curved surface, for instance.
"This material can stretch with the body of a soft robot, and that's what our group does," said Rob Shepherd, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell.
"It allows robots to change their color, and it also allows displays to change their shape."
The possibilities? A stretchy, touch computer screen, or wearable tech — say, a color-changing jacket. Or a mood robot.
"When robots become more and more a part of our lives, the ability for them to have emotional connection with us will be important. So to be able to change their color in response to mood or the tone of the room we believe is going to be important for human-robot interactions," Shepherd said.