7th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Soft Robotics

ROBOSOFT 2024

San Diego, CA USA
April 14-17, 2024
7th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Soft Robotics

ROBOSOFT 2024

San Diego, CA USA
April 14-17, 2024

Accepted workshops


Bio-hybrids: When robots get alive

Type of workshop: Full day

Organizer(s): Miriam Filippi*, Oncay Yasa, Robert Kevin Katzschmann

Topic area(s): Biomedical

Abstract: Living materials are engineering materials for future robotics that integrate biological living cells. Bio-hybrid robots are dynamic, intelligent systems that can incorporate the unique abilities of living matter, such as growth, regeneration, morphing, biodegradation, and adaptation to dynamic environments. These features render bio-hybrid technologies promising to design future robotics with dexterous motion, adaptive behavior, sustainable manufacturing, durable performance, and environmental safety. Experts in bio-hybrid technologies will show us the potential of living systems for engineering intelligent machines. We will discover the latest findings in the manipulation of biological materials from single cell to tissue levels; engineering of biointerfaces; generating predictable motion performance; and using embodied bio-intelligence. We will dissect the mechanisms behind the programmability of cells and their responsiveness and understand how living materials can guide technological progress toward production sustainability and harmonic human-environment relations. This workshop will create opportunities for new synergies in robotic research and exchanging original thoughts at the interface among materials, biology, informatics, and mechanical and electrical engineering. Together, we will trace new, unconventional research directions to make biological robots more controllable and usable.

Workshop website: Bio-hybrids: When robots get alive


Bio-inspired Soft Metamorphic Aerial Robotics -Year 3- What can we learn from nature to develop shape-changing, metamorphic, adaptive, multi-functional and multi-terrain Aerial Robots

Type of workshop: Full day

Organizer(s): Huy Nguyen Pham*, Mirko Kovac, Salua Hamaza, Pakpong Chirarattananon, Karishma Patnaik, Wenlong Zhang, Kristan Hilby, Anibal Ollero

Topic area(s): Aerial robotics

Abstract: Currently, the thriving field of soft aerial robotics has continued to explore the development of airborne robotic systems through the utilization of deformable and flexible structures. Unlike conventional rigidbodied aerial robots, soft aerial robots leverage compliance and morphing capabilities to achieve unique advantages in versatility, adaptability to various terrains, scalability, agility, maneuverability, manipulation, and multi-functionality in a single robot. The last two years of this workshop have highlighted everything from novel design principles, real-world applications, bio-inspiration, and control and modeling principles for soft aerial robots. The focus of this year's workshop will be updates from groups working in this field, with a special emphasis on comparative biology. This sentiment has two folds, first to draw inspiration from biology for the development of the next generation of aerial vehicles and second is to develop robophysical models to help understand biology better. Together with the prominent researchers from these interdisciplinary fields, the purpose of this workshop is to track the progress of ongoing innovation and latest advancements in this rapidly growing subsection of soft and aerial robotics. The workshop will continue to identify technical and conceptual obstacles while outlining the primary challenges and opportunities in the realm of bio-inspired soft aerial robotics. Finally, the workshop will further focus on the deployability of these innovative aerial robots in real-world conditions.

Workshop website: Bio-inspired Soft Metamorphic Aerial Robotics -Year 3- What can we learn from nature to develop shape-changing, metamorphic, adaptive, multi-functional and multi-terrain Aerial Robots


Democratization of Soft Robotics through Embodied Intelligence

Type of workshop: Full day

Organizer(s): Nana Obayashi*, Josie Hughes, Chapa Sirithunge, Arsen Abdulali, Fumiya Iida, Adam Andrew Stokes, Maks Gepner, Kyle Liam Walker, Alistair McConnell

Topic area(s): Embodied Intelligence

Abstract: Building upon the success of the annual Conference on Embodied Intelligence with over 100 speakers and 1000 participants, this workshop aims to advance discussions on democratizing soft robotics through the perspective of embodied intelligence. Amidst the long-standing philosophical debate on the mind-body relationship, our primary goal is to delve into the profound scientific implications of embodied intelligence in soft robotics research, specifically focusing on enabling robots for intricate social interactions. The workshop's objectives are twofold. Firstly, we explore the convergence of embodied intelligence and soft robotics technology, drawing insights from recent advancements to address conceptual challenges and translate them into tangible, physical solutions. Secondly, our aim is to broaden participation by engaging soft robotics researchers from diverse communities. By emphasizing collaboration and community engagement, this workshop actively contributes to the ongoing paradigm shift in soft robotics research. It advocates for a holistic and inclusive approach to technological advancement, echoing the success and significance of previous discussions within the collaborative community. To push the boundaries of soft robotics, our commitment lies in fostering a community-driven approach to technological development, with a dedicated focus on embodied intelligence to bridge the gap between technology and human experiences.

Workshop website: Democratization of Soft Robotics through Embodied Intelligence


From Layers to Limbs: Exploring the Interface of 3D Printing and Bio-Inspired Musculoskeletal Robotics

Type of workshop: Full day

Organizer(s): Alexander M. Kübler*, Thomas Jakob Konrad Buchner, Robert Kevin Katzschmann

Topic area(s): Bioinspiration

Abstract: In an era where robotics is rapidly evolving, this RoboSoft workshop presents a pioneering exploration into the integration of 3D printing technologies with the development of musculoskeletal robotic systems inspired by nature. It aims to unravel the potential of combining the precision of traditional robotics with the adaptability of soft robotics. At the forefront of innovation, our workshop will delve into how modern 3D printing is revolutionizing robot creation, enabling the fabrication of complex structures that blend rigid and soft components. We will investigate how this approach, combined with tendons, joints, and ligaments, promises enhanced interaction safety, natural movement, and precise control in robotic applications. Our interactive sessions, led by renowned experts, will cover the journey from initial 3D-printed prototypes to advanced, bio-inspired musculoskeletal systems. We will explore current technologies, identify knowledge gaps, and discuss future research directions. The workshop is designed to foster collaboration and idea exchange, featuring panel discussions, speed networking, poster and demonstrator sessions, and both on-site and remote participation options. Join us in shaping the future of robotics, where interdisciplinary innovation meets practical application. This workshop is not just a discussion forum but a launchpad for the next wave of breakthroughs in soft robotics.

Workshop website: From Layers to Limbs: Exploring the Interface of 3D Printing and Bio-Inspired Musculoskeletal Robotics


Multimodal Soft Robots for Multifunctional Manipulation, Locomotion, and Human-Machine Interaction

Type of workshop: Full day

Organizer(s): Xiaonan Huang*, Wen-Bo Li, Talia Moore, Zhuang Zhang, Liang He, Carmel Majidi

Topic area(s): Manipulation, Multimodal Locomotion

Abstract: Living organisms display a remarkable spectrum of adaptive behaviors to navigate ever-changing environments, driven by their inherent capacity for multimodal actuations and sensations. These foundational multimodal actuations, encompassing bending, twisting, contraction/extension, and their synergistic combinations, empower creatures to achieve advanced multimodal locomotion (e.g., running, jumping, and swimming) and versatile manipulation (e.g., grasping, touching, pushing, and pulling), enabling them to adeptly evade predators and excel in prey capture. Augmenting these dynamic movements are multimodal sensations, encompassing distance, deformation, force, and temperature perception, equipping organisms with the sensory acumen to make informed decisions. Inspired by the natural world, the field of soft robotics has made significant strides in developing multimodal actuation and sensing methodologies. While bio-inspired designs have long informed modern robotics, a compelling need exists for comprehensive dialogues centered on multimodality. This workshop aims to delve into the latest breakthroughs in multimodal soft robotics. Employing a holistic, multidisciplinary approach, we intend to assemble leading experts from diverse domains, including mechanics, materials, robotics, animal behavior, and neuroscience, to explore the multifaceted concept of multimodality. Our objectives encompass addressing extant challenges, cultivating fresh interest, attracting new participants to the field, and fostering collaborative synergies that will drive the evolution of multimodal soft robotics.

Workshop website: Multimodal Soft Robots for Multifunctional Manipulation, Locomotion, and Human-Machine Interaction


Soft Robotics-Inspired Biology

Type of workshop: Full day

Organizer(s): Kaushik Jayaram*, Jean-Michel Mongeau, Victoria Webster-Wood, Nicole Xu

Topic area(s): Bioinspiration

Abstract: Advances in robot design, actuation, and control have benefitted from biological inspiration, which has perhaps mostinfluenced the soft robotics community. Furthermore, many scientists interested in understanding how animals move are turning to bioinspired robots to test their hypotheses. This workshop aims to facilitate interdisciplinary interactions between these two communities: bio-inspired roboticists and robotics-inspired biologists. We will hold a one-day workshop to bring together robotics and biologically minded scientists and engineers who all share a common theme: how does movement emerge from the interactions of complex actuators, mechanisms, and control systems? We will discuss how soft systems exploit these novel movements to significantly increase autonomy during the exploration of natural environments. This workshop will engage audiences across disciplines through expert keynote presentations, student posters and demos, and an interactive panel discussion. Our diverse speakers will present on various soft robotics topics including novel platforms (e.g. biohybrid systems), onboard integration of bioinspired sensing and control, miniature fabrication advances, as well as ethical considerations of working with animals. We hope to develop an appreciation for the cross-disciplinary roles of scientists and engineers in the future of robotic and biological locomotion research, and specifically bring more biologists to IEEE conferences.

Workshop website: Soft Robotics-Inspired Biology


Challenges and Opportunities of Electrically-Driven Soft Actuators

Type of workshop: Half day

Organizer(s): Siyi Xu*, Michelle Ching-Sum Yuen, Robert Wood

Topic area(s): Actuators

Abstract: Electrically-driven soft actuators (EDSAs) are power-dense, high-efficiency, and high-bandwidth soft actuators that can be a direct bridge between common electronic circuitry and soft robots. While existing EDSAs have demonstrated muscle-like capabilities that could be well-suited for a variety of robotic applications, challenges persist in practically implementing these EDSAs for real-world exploration. Specifically, EDSAs generally require high voltage and bulky electronics to operate, their labor-intensive manufacturing process results in low production throughput, and their operation lifetime is too short for practical use. Breakthroughs in materials selection and synthesis, automated fabrication, design and modeling, and robotic system integration would be critical for advancing EDSA technology. This workshop gathers experts around the world across disciplines to share their recent advances in EDSAs. The workshop presentations will cover key topics of EDSAs: innovative materials, actuator design and scalable manufacturing processes, and integration into robotic systems for real-world applications. This workshop will conclude with a demo and poster session for participants to showcase their latest successes. We hope that this workshop will yield breakthroughs in soft actuator technology, promote collaborative research projects, and define best practices with this class of actuators.

Workshop website: Challenges and Opportunities of Electrically-Driven Soft Actuators


Embodied Exploration Through Muscular Hydrostats

Type of workshop: Half day

Organizer(s): Cecilia Laschi*, Lucia Beccai

Topic area(s): Exploration

Abstract: Eco-robots are environmentally friendly robots because of either their eco- or bio-compatibility or their environmental missions. They are essential to explore uncharted areas of our ocean while leaving marine environments unaltered. Pristine waters are a theater of protected species and key phenomena that sustain marine biodiversity. Often, they are located in remote areas, hence difficult to navigate because of their wilderness and unknown morphology. Thus, it is paramount to find autonomous solutions that exhibit adaptive, compliant behaviors when interacting with the environment, move without disturbing the surrounding living beings, and operate gently when in contact with delicate objects. Merging soft materials and bioinspired and soft robotics with eco-robotics opens new sampling and monitoring avenues as well as novel research branches. The hybrid integration of highly reconfigurable marine robots and unconventional bioinspired tools is a particularly interesting use case. Such a solution can undertake delicate sampling for the study of fragile living organisms, it can also aid the challenge of ocean clean-up, which becomes arduous in the case of ghost gear removal, inspiring a novel contest for robotic control and dexter manipulation.

Workshop website: Embodied Exploration Through Muscular Hydrostats


Fluid-driven soft actuators: challenges and opportunities

Type of workshop: Half day

Organizer(s): Linda Paterno, Tommaso Ranzani, Arianna Menciassi

Topic area(s): Actuators

Abstract: This workshop brings together experienced researchers and students to explore recent advancements and main challenges of soft fluid-driven actuators. Since the inception of soft robotics, actuation driven by pressurized fluids has gained widespread popularity due to its versatility, high energy density, rapid response, straightforward manufacturing, and excellent back-drivability. These advantages make soft fluid-driven actuators an attractive choice for a wide range of applications in robotics, medical devices, wearable technology, and several other domains where traditional rigid actuators may prove unsuitable.The field of soft fluid-driven actuators has witnessed astonishing evolution in recent decades. It has evolved from simple hydraulic or pneumatic chambers powered by bulky and rigid energy sources to sophisticated channel networks activated by cutting-edge solutions that can serve as pressure sources and fluid control without compromising the compliant nature of soft fluid-driven robots. In this context, numerous innovative solutions have been proposed to integrate morphological information within fluid-driven soft structures, enabling novel shape morphing and fluid control strategies. Throughout the workshop, an open and comprehensive discussion will be provided, bringing together internationally renowned experts. Additionally, a flash talk session followed by a poster session has been planned to give young researchers the opportunity to present their work and engage with experts and the audience.

Workshop website: Fluid-driven soft actuators: challenges and opportunities


Into the Woods: Soft machines for Ecosystem Exploration

Type of workshop: Half day

Organizer(s): Barbara Mazzolai, Isabella Fiorello, Fabian Meder

Topic area(s): Exploration

Abstract: Bioinspired design principles, biohybrid materials, and manufacturing methods have been combined to prototype new soft living machines able to interact with complex unstructured environments. These soft living machines represent a remarkable fusion of biology and engineering, offering an opportunity to explore and understand ecosystems. Our workshop “Into the Woods: Living Soft Machines for Ecosystem Exploration” aims to present and discuss the latest advancements in the field of soft living robots and smart materials, with a specific focus on exploration of unstructured natural environments, such as forests, grasslands, agricultural fields, freshwater, and marine systems. It showcases the ongoing progress in prototyping and utilizing bioinspired soft machines and living materials for the monitoring, analysis, and preservation of plant ecosystems. Researchers from different fields will present the most recent results about bioinspired soft robots and sustainable materials for exploration of multi-environments with the capability to interact with their natural surroundings. We will discuss the next challenges that need to be encountered in developing soft machines for real-world and ecosystem exploration.

Workshop website: Into the Woods: Soft machines for Ecosystem Exploration


Material intelligence through multifunctional structures: challenges in design and manufacturing

Type of workshop: Half day

Organizer(s): Edoardo Milana*, Ellen Roels, Theo Calais, Thileepan Stalin

Topic area(s): Embodied Intelligence

Abstract: Thanks to the extraordinary advances in physically programmable structures, the boundary between material and robot gradually becomes blurry, making it possible to achieve Material Intelligence. A driving force is the development of multifunctional materials and structures, which have become an important aspect of soft robotics. Nevertheless, the design and fabrication of these complex structures do not always prove to be easy and requires a constant development of innovative techniques. Examples of multifunctional materials and structures range from flexible metamaterials, origami and multistable structures, to nonlinear fluidic networks and logic circuits, passing through stimuli-responsive and self-healing materials. In this workshop, not only the development of these materials and structures are discussed, but also how we can manufacture them, as this is essential to integrate them in soft robotic applications. By bringing together an interdisciplinary group of researchers working on various aspects, from material science to mechanical engineering and robotics, this workshop aims to give an overview of the very recent advances of multifunctional materials and structures. Moreover, ample time is foreseen for discussion on the current challenges and to design the future path for this exciting technology and its seamless integration in soft robotics.

Workshop website: Material intelligence through multifunctional structures: challenges in design and manufacturing


Pristine Waters Observatories – Where Eco and Soft Robotics Meet 

Type of workshop: Half day

Organizer(s): Simona Aracri*, Emanuela Del Dottore, Angelo Odetti, Barbara Mazzolai, Laura Margheri, Robert Shepherd, Leixin Ma, Alice De Luca, Roberta Ferretti, Gabriele Bruzzone, Enrica Zereik

Topic area(s): Exploration

Abstract: Eco-robots are environmentally friendly robots because of either their eco- or bio-compatibility or their environmental missions. They are essential to explore uncharted areas of our ocean while leaving marine environments unaltered. Pristine waters are a theater of protected species and key phenomena that sustain marine biodiversity. Often, they are located in remote areas, hence difficult to navigate because of their wilderness and unknown morphology. Thus, it is paramount to find autonomous solutions that exhibit adaptive, compliant behaviors when interacting with the environment, move without disturbing the surrounding living beings, and operate gently when in contact with delicate objects. Merging soft materials and bioinspired and soft robotics with eco-robotics opens new sampling and monitoring avenues as well as novel research branches. The hybrid integration of highly reconfigurable marine robots and unconventional bioinspired tools is a particularly interesting use case. Such a solution can undertake delicate sampling for the study of fragile living organisms, it can also aid the challenge of ocean clean-up, which becomes arduous in the case of ghost gear removal, inspiring a novel contest for robotic control and dexter manipulation.

Workshop website: Pristine Waters Observatories – Where Eco and Soft Robotics Meet 


Shape Morphing in Soft Robots: Debates, Challenges and Future Directions

Type of workshop: Half day

Organizer(s): Jiefeng Sun*, Bilige Yang, Luis Adrian Ramirez, Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio, Josh Bongard

Topic area(s): Shape change

Abstract: The advancement of smart materials has paved the way for the significant branch of soft robotics: shape-morphing robots. These robots span scales from micrometers to meters, and their structures and materials are diverse. The ultimate goal of shape morphing robots is transforming into target shapes. This field has evolved into two main mechanisms. The first involves pre-designed structures enabling transformation into a predetermined shape, which can be described as Pattern-to-pattern shape morphing, finding utility in responsive systems, the biological field, and aerospace applications. The second mechanism consists of actuator arrays, which can be described as Programmable shape morphing since one device can morph into various target shapes through the adjustment of control parameters. This flexibility unlocks vast potential in emerging sectors such as haptic devices, Human-User Interfaces (HUI) of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR), and the fascinating realm of metamaterials. This workshop seeks to illuminate the distinct challenges and research opportunities in both types of mechanisms. Through collaborative discussions, participants will explore research opportunities in design and fabrication methodologies, control theories, cutting-edge applications, and the potential performance metrics for both deformation paradigms. Dive into the transformative world of shape morphing robots and envision the future of adaptable robotic systems.

Workshop website: Shape Morphing in Soft Robots: Debates, Challenges and Future Directions


Shape Morphing Robots: From Pattern-to-pattern to Programmable Shape Morphing

Type of workshop: Half day

Organizer(s): Jue Wang*, Alex Chortos, Xiaoyue Ni, Feifei Chen, John Rogers

Topic area(s): Shape Change

Abstract: The advancement of smart materials has paved the way for the significant branch of soft robotics: shape-morphing robots. These robots span scales from micrometers to meters, and their structures and materials are diverse. The ultimate goal of shape morphing robots is transforming into target shapes. This field has evolved into two main mechanisms. The first involves pre-designed structures enabling transformation into a predetermined shape, which can be described as Pattern-to-pattern shape morphing, finding utility in responsive systems, the biological field, and aerospace applications. The second mechanism consists of actuator arrays, which can be described as Programmable shape morphing since one device can morph into various target shapes through the adjustment of control parameters. This flexibility unlocks vast potential in emerging sectors such as haptic devices, Human-User Interfaces (HUI) of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR), and the fascinating realm of metamaterials. This workshop seeks to illuminate the distinct challenges and research opportunities in both types of mechanisms. Through collaborative discussions, participants will explore research opportunities in design and fabrication methodologies, control theories, cutting-edge applications, and the potential performance metrics for both deformation paradigms. Dive into the transformative world of shape morphing robots and envision the future of adaptable robotic systems.

Workshop website: Shape Morphing Robots: From Pattern-to-pattern to Programmable Shape Morphing


Soft Electronics meets Soft Robotics

Type of workshop: Half day

Organizer(s): Virgilio Mattoli*, Barbara Mazzolai

Topic area(s): Electronics

Abstract: Soft electronics represents a captivating area of research dedicated to the seamless incorporation of electronic components and devices onto flexible, non-planar, and intricate 3D surfaces and objects. Over the last decade, the exploration of soft electronics has surged, driven by the growing demand for innovative portable electronic systems bridging the gap between biology and electronics. In the context of soft robotics, soft electronics has become a crucial technology, driven by its superior compliance, seamless integration capability, and the unique properties of recently developed materials such as soft conducting polymers, hydrogels, liquid metals, and electrolytic liquids. These materials are pushing the boundaries towards creating soft sensors, actuators, and integrated soft robotics devices. This workshop aims to showcase the latest breakthroughs in soft electronics technologies and soft robotics through interactive sessions, featuring contributions from leading experts. Emphasis will be placed on the theme of sustainability, exploring concepts like transient, biodegradable, and even edible soft electronics and robotics. Join us in discovering advancements that can shape the next generation of soft robotics.

Workshop website: Soft Electronics meets Soft Robotics


Stiffening techniques for soft robotics 

Type of workshop: Half day

Organizer(s): Evren Samur*, Taylan Atakuru, Gunay Zungor

Topic area(s): Variable Stiffness

Abstract: One of the key challenges in soft robotics is to effectively achieve and control stiffness. Soft robots must be compliant for enhanced dexterity and safe interaction with the environment, but stiffness is essential for force transmission when needed. The design of a soft robot involves finding a balance between being stiff enough to exert significant forces for task performance and precision, and being compliant enough to adapt to the environment. Various techniques have been used to achieve stiffness variation in soft robots, including vacuum-induced jamming structures, shape memory materials, low melting point materials, electro-magnetorheological materials, electroactive polymers, and flexible fluidic actuators. These methods can be compared based on their stiffening and de-stiffening rates, stiffening modes, and the amount of stiffness variation. This workshop aims to bring together experts to present recent advances in stiffening techniques in the field of soft robotics. Distinguished experts from academia will give seminars on their developed techniques and engage in critical discussions on their prerequisites, performance, and limitations. The workshop will include networking events to increase interaction among participants.

Workshop website: Stiffening techniques for soft robotics 


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