April 24, 2018



Exteroception and proprioception are crucial to enable soft robots to discover and react to their surroundings. Through the sense of touch, external cues (e.g. mechanical) must be perceived while dealing with exploratory movements, grasping and manipulation of unknown objects. At the same time, body movements in space must be known in order to provide spatial context to exploration and to underlie control policies. All this is highly challenging since the body deforms and adapts to the exterior during movement, leading to a strong interplay among the actuation mechanics of soft bodies, the sensing morphology and functionality, and the soft robotic interaction with the environment. In this workshop, we aim to gather scientists from various fields (including material science, robotics, biology, and engineering) to discuss bio-inspired approaches, robotic strategies and sensing solutions towards the development of perceptive soft robots. Collaborative discussions will help to shed light on new strategies for filling the gap between the results at component level and what is still missing at robotic level. With the aid of live demos and prototypes, new approaches can be suggested to shape future steps in the field.


Lucia Beccai

Center of Micro-BioRobotics (CMBR)
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT)
Viale Rinaldo Piaggio 34
56025 Pontedera (Pisa), Italy

Kathryn Daltorio

Case Western Reserve University (CWRU)
Mechanical Engineering
Glennan 859
Cleveland, OH 44106-7222, USA


Enabling closed-loop control of robotic systems remains a clear challenge in soft robotics. Obtaining autonomy and going beyond open-loop control requires integrating sensors within these soft-bodied systems to provide multiple modes of proprioceptive and exteroceptive feedback. This concerns not only robots and actuators comprised primarily of soft materials (i.e. intrinsically soft), but also those in which the desired deformation is achieved primarily by their architecture (i.e. extrinsically soft). In particular, among many other capabilities soft robots should use mechanosensing in adapting/reacting to unexpected situations. Many results are available today for novel deformable materials for sensing application (e.g. in addition to single elastic sensors, electronic skins are available) however, there is still a gap to overcome to make these results usable in compliant actuated structures and real robotic systems. New flexible/deformable strategies have to be exploited to pursue a full integration of sensing and body, aiming for more sensing functionalities with low computational strategies.

In this vision, the workshop will mainly consist of two highly interdisciplinary parts. In one part, critical examples of sensing in soft bodies will be presented from biology and robotics. Biologically inspired systems for soft locomotion will be presented to shed light on possible simplifying strategies for sensorized robots (of both intrinsic and extrinsic type). Closed-loop soft robotic behaviours will be described, highlighting advantages and challenges associated with sensing implementation, and also drawing input from new fields like soft haptics. In the second part of the workshop, challenges related to soft and functional materials, sensing design and emerging technologies will be discussed, including: soft materials behaviour for sensing mechanical parameters; methods for achieving multimodality in mechanosensing with soft materials; and, 2D and 3D printing technologies for seamlessly embedding sensors within actuated structures.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
  • Sensorized soft robots
  • Soft robot control
  • Biomimetic soft locomotion
  • Embodied sensing
  • Biomimetic and soft tactile sensing
  • Elastic electronics
  • Hyperelastic materials for mechanical sensing
  • 2D/3D printing of soft materials

The multidisciplinary approach will stimulate creativity and interactions among participants. The audience of the workshop will consist of researchers from different disciplines (robotics, biology, material science, engineering, etc.), and the high technological and scientific level of the topics addressed can make an impact on young researchers and students at Master and PhD level. The discussions during the interactive sessions will be aided by demonstration of robots or components, by using prototypes or videos, and junior researchers will be invited and involved.

© 2018 Soft Perceptive Robots