What just happened? The field of robotics has come a long way over the past few decades, and we've seen many incredible advancements, such as the robotic dog known as Spot, or – to use a more recent example – a new "breakthrough" fabric engineered by researchers working out of Yale University.

Yale professor Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio and her team of scientists have managed to develop a "robotic fabric," which combines the benefits of traditional fabric – such as breathability and flexibility – with full actuation, sensing capabilities, and "variable stiffness fibers."

The fiber is made up of an epoxy embedded with particles of "Field's metal," an alloy that can soften at warmer temperatures and stiffen at colder temperatures.

Using an array of sensors, researchers can channel current through their custom fabric to heat and cool different parts of it, thus manipulating its structure.

These sensors can bend and twist into pre-determined shapes, which could have useful applications down the line – Kramer-Bottiglio believes her technology could be used to develop self-deploying tents, robotic parachutes, and "assistive clothing" for the elderly.

It remains to be seen whether or not Kramer-Bottiglio's tech will ever be actively implemented in the real world, but it certainly raises some exciting possibilities for the future.