For most of its existence, robotics has focused on hard, stiff mechanisms to deliver precision and repeatability. In biological organisms, by stark contrast, materials of various stiffnesses are deployed in well-adapted bodies that exploit their specific advantages. The study of soft systems raises many interesting new questions and challenges for robotics especially in the areas of design, control, sensing and interaction.
A central characteristic of our interdisciplinary work is that we aim for a systems approach to soft robots, building on a diverse expertise in embodied artificial intelligence, biomimetic modelling, human-robot interaction and robotic art. Specifically, we wish to elucidate what are the appropriate design criteria for soft robots; how well-adapted soft bodies can be designed and deployed for given tasks, including collaboration with humans; how electronics and computing can be integrated into soft robotic solutions; and how both local and distal sensing can be exploited in different environments with specific naturecultural constraints.