It's a cute little robot which can jump by itself, but the implications of the design could be far-reaching. We're talking safer workplaces, no more sports injuries, and no more broken cameras.

A team of engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed a "skin" for robots which drastically reduces impact force by dispersing liquid through plastic with 3D printing.

They tested the skin by covering a robot cube which can jump autonomously. The video below shows the cube jump into the air and "stick" its landings due to the shock absorbent nature of liquid.

The key development here is that the liquid can be distributed precisely across the plastic material used for 3D printing in a type of technology called "programmable viscoelastic materials" (PVM).


Robotics covered with the skin will be more resilient and accurate in practical applications. For instance, a drone or GoPro camera would more safely absorb impact from heights.

Within engineering, the skin could provide more accurate and safe traversal for robotic vehicles and improve landing measures for rocket propulsion.

And the brains behind PVM have some exciting other exciting ideas:

"In the future this material and process may find applications in a wide range of fields, including custom sporting gear, personal protective equipment, and vibration isolation in cameras or industrial equipment."

This means PVM skin could spell a reduction in sports injuries, more durable safety in outdoor activities and far safer workplaces. Cyclists, drivers, and so on could be subject to less risk of impact injury with the durable skin.

If applied to vehicles such as cars and trains, it could result in a massive reduction of fatalities and injuries in crashes.