Soft Robotics: from bioinspiration to biomedical applications
Largely inspired by the observation of soft tissue role in living organisms, soft robotics is one of the current challenges for pushing the boundaries of robotics technologies and enable advances in robot abilities. At the same time, soft robots finds application in the biomedical field, safely interacting with patients, in rehabilitation and assistance, and navigating inside the human body, in surgery and endoscopy, as well as providing realistic simulators of human body parts.
Cecilia Laschi is Professor at the National University of Singapore. Her research is in the field of soft robotics, a young research area that she pioneered and contributed to develop at international level. She is member of the IEEE, of the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS), and of the Robotics & Automation Society (RAS), where she serves as elected AdCom member and Co-Chair of the TC on Soft Robotics. She founded and served as General Chair for the First IEEE-RAS International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft), in Livorno (Italy), in April 24-28, 2018.
Talk scheduled for: Monday June 14th, 10am – 11am CET
Virtualizing soft materials
In soft robotics, the design of a device largely relies on the exploitation of its body softness and compliance, thus the knowledge of material mechanical properties is of paramount importance. Linear approximations usually hold for rigid materials, but with elastomers this assumption often leads to poor accuracy, especially when high deformations are expected. Soft materials usually show hyper-elastic behavior that implies several peculiarities that should be considered for an accurate design. In this workshop, we will cover the whole process necessary to derive an analytical description of the hyper-elastic behavior of any elastomer. We will start from the mechanical tests required to derive useful experimental data; we will study a typical stress-strain plot to underline all the important factors that characterise the mechanical behavior of hyper-elastic materials; we will go through hyper-elastic models that can be used to approximate their real mechanical response and we will compare their accuracy against their computational cost.
Matteo Cianchetti is an Assistant Professor with The BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, leading the Soft Mechatronics for Biorobotics Lab. He received the MSc degree in Biomedical Engineering (cum laude) from the University of Pisa, Italy, in 2007 and the PhD degree in Biorobotics from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna. He is member of the IEEE, of the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS), and of the Robotics & Automation Society (RAS). He is author or co-author of more than 100 international peer reviewed papers and he regularly serves as a reviewer for more than 10 international journals. He has been and currently is involved in EU-funded projects with the main focus on the development of Soft Robotics technologies. His main research interests include bioinspired robotics and the study and development of new systems and technologies based on soft/flexible materials for soft actuators, smart compliant sensors and flexible mechanisms..
Talk scheduled for: Monday June 14th, 11am – 1pm CET
Unleash the Tether: High Force Actuators for Portable and Efficient Soft Robots
This talk will present actuator design solutions for compliant robots and soft-material robots. For compliant robots, I will present a design paradigm for compliant robots that leverages high torque density motors to enable the electrification of robotic actuation. Thus, wearable robots could be lightweight, highly compliant, and with high bandwidth. For soft-material robots, I will present two methods (high-efficient pump and bi-stability) to achieve high-force and high-efficient soft robots. Our AI-powered controllers that estimate real-time human dynamics and assist multimodal locomotion are also essential to provide biomechanical benefits for able-bodied individuals and people with disabilities.
Hao Su is Irwin Zahn Endowed Assistant Professor in Department of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Lab of Biomechatronics and Intelligent Robotics (haosu-robotics.github.io) at City University of New York. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Prior to this role, he was a Research Scientist at Philips Research North America where he designed robots for lung surgery. He is junior chair of IEEE RAS Technical Committee on Mechanism and Design. He received National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Toyota Mobility Challenge Discover Award, Best Medical Robotics Paper Runner-up Award in the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), and Philips Innovation Transfer Award. He is currently directing Center of Assistive and Personal Robotics for Independent Living (APRIL) funded by National Science Foundation and Department of Health and Human Services.
Talk scheduled for: Monday June 14th, 3pm – 4pm CET
Design, Fabrication, and Control of Biologically Inspired Soft Robots
Robotics has the potential to address many of today’s pressing problems in fields ranging from healthcare to manufacturing to disaster relief. However, the traditional approaches used on the factory floor do not perform well in unstructured environments. The key to solving many of these challenges is to explore new, non-traditional designs. Fortunately, nature surrounds us with examples of novel ways to navigate and interact with the real world. Dr. Tolley’s Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab seeks to borrow the key principles of operation from biological systems and apply them to robotic design. This talk will give an overview of recent projects in the lab that investigate the ways in which the use of non-rigid materials can help solve challenging problems in robotics. These projects seek to develop bioinspired systems capable of, for example, navigating the world by walking, digging, and swimming (inspired by animals like turtles, worms, and squid) and of interacting safely with humans and delicate objects.
Michael T. Tolley is Associate Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and director of the Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab at the Jacobs School of Engineering, UC San Diego (bioinspired.eng.ucsd.edu). Before joining the mechanical engineering faculty at UCSD in the fall of 2014, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University. He received the Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering with a minor in computer science from Cornell University in 2009 and 2011, respectively. His research seeks inspiration from nature to design robotic systems with the versatility, resilience, and efficiency of biological organisms. Example topics include soft robots, origami robots, and systems capable of self-assembly. His work has appeared in leading academic journals including Science and Nature, and has been recognized by awards including a US Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program award and a 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award.
Talk scheduled for: Monday June 14th, 4pm – 5pm CET
Kyu Jin Cho
Tendon Drive for Soft Wearable Robots
Traditional tendon drives for rigid robots are maintained in high tension for precise control and quick response of the drive. When driving soft wearable robots, continuous tension on the body even when the robot is not in use can cause great discomfort. However, reducing the tension can make it easier for the tendons to become entangled inside the pulley when there is a slack. To avoid this issue, you can use a linear actuator, large pulley or thick tendon. In this talk, I will describe the Slack-Enabling tendon drives that our lab has been developing, which allows slack on the robot side of the drive so that the users can easily use the tendon drive without worrying about the tangling issue. Since it uses pulley instead of a ball screw, the size and weight of the drive can be reduced, while enjoying the freely moving tendons that can be used easily with soft wearable robots. This slack enabling tendon drive could be useful for developing various soft wearable robots.
Kyu Jin Cho is a Professor and the Director of Soft Robotics Research Center and Biorobotics Lab at Seoul National University. He received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT and his B.S and M.S. from Seoul National University. He was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory before joining SNU in 2008. He has been exploring novel soft bio-inspired robot designs, including a water jumping robot, origami inspired robots and a soft wearable robot for the hand, called Exo-Glove. He has received the 2014 IEEE RAS Early Academic Career Award for his fundamental contributions to soft robotics and biologically inspired robot design. He has also received the 2014 ASME Compliant Mechanism Award, 2013 IROS Best Video Award, 2015 KROS Hakbo ART Award. The Biorobotics Lab has won the 1st RoboSoft Grand Challenge sponsored by European Commission, with the robot “SNUMAX” in Livorno, Italy in 2016.
Talk scheduled for: Tuesday June 15th, 10am – 11am CET
Soft robotics on the body
Softness is necessary at the boundary between humans and robots. The complex deformations offered by soft robotics will be useful when robots and humans are in close contact. This talk introduces a variety of musculoskeletal robots driven by pneumatic artificial muscles, based on our interest in the musculoskeletal system of animals. This talk also addresses various applications of film-based printable soft actuators, called pouch motors. Examples include a gait rehabilitation device for rats, a prototype of moving garments, and an affective haptic device.
Ryuma Niiyama is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo. He received his Ph.D. in 2010 from The University of Tokyo. He joined the MIT CSAIL, MIT Media Lab, and MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering as a postdoctoral researcher from 2010 to 2014. His current research interests include soft actuators, bio-inspired robots, continuum manipulators, and inflatable robots.
Talk scheduled for: Tuesday June 15th, 11am – 12pm CET
Sensing and control of soft (wearable) robots
Soft deformable structures are intrinsically difficult to apply sensing devices. Usually sensor systems are stiff, discrete, and prone to noisy on soft surfaces. In this lecture we will discuss what are the principles of sensing devices for soft deformable structures, and how we can apply to estimation of body deformation. The sensing techniques are then extended for closed-loop control of soft structure by using some machine learning techniques.
Fumiya Iida is a Reader of Robotics at Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge. He received his bachelor and master degrees in mechanical engineering at Tokyo University of Science in Japan, and Dr. sc. nat. in Informatics at University of Zurich in Switzerland. During his PhD project, he was also engaged in biomechanics research of human locomotion at Locomotion Laboratory, University of Jena in Germany. While he worked as a postdoctoral associate at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in USA, he awarded the Fellowship for Prospective Researchers from the Swiss National Science Foundation, and then, the Swiss National Science Foundation Professorship hosted by ETH Zurich. In 2014 he moved to the University of Cambridge as the director of Bio-Inspired Robotics Laboratory.
Talk scheduled for: Tuesday June 15th, 12pm – 1pm CET
SoRoSim: A MATLAB toolbox for Soft Robots Modeling
The recent growing interest in soft robotics led to significant improvements in the mathematical modeling of such highly deformable structures. An interesting approach is provided by the geometric variable strain methods described in  and , which is based on a strain parameterization of the soft robot. One of the most important features of the model is that it encompasses the geometric theory of rigid robotics as a particular case. Thus, it is able to generalize many of the beneficial properties of this well-established field. In this talk, we will describe the theoretical and computational underpinning of the geometric variable-strain approach in detail. Then, a MATLAB toolbox that integrates this method will be presented through a step-by-step, hands-on tutorial. The proposed model, together with the toolbox, is well-posed to facilitate the modeling, statics and dynamics analysis, and low-level control of soft, rigid, or hybrid robotic systems.
 F. Renda, C. Armanini, V. Lebastard, F. Candelier and F. Boyer, “A Geometric Variable-Strain Approach for Static Modeling of Soft Manipulators With Tendon and Fluidic Actuation,” in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 4006-4013, July 2020, doi: 10.1109/LRA.2020.2985620.
 F. Boyer, V. Lebastard, F. Candelier and F. Renda, “Dynamics of Continuum and Soft Robots: A Strain Parameterization Based Approach,” in IEEE Transactions on Robotics, doi: 10.1109/TRO.2020.3036618.
Dr. Federico Renda is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Khalifa Universty in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Before joining Khalifa University, he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 2014. Dr. Federico Renda joined the LS2N lab at IMT Atlantique and the DEFROST Lab at INRIA as a Visiting Professor in 2018 and 2019, respectively. He currently serves as Associated Editor in several prestigious journals such as Soft Robotics and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters. His research interests include dynamic modeling and control of soft and underwater robots using principles of geometric mechanics. Dr. Renda is also a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
Talk scheduled for: Tuesday June 15th, 2pm – 3.30pm CET
TMTDyn Matlab package for Modeling & Control of Soft Robots
TMTDyn is a Matlab package for modelling hybrid rigid-continuum robots . It utilizes four different robot kinematics representations: (i) lumped mass approximation, (ii) piecewise curvature discretization, (iii) Finite Euler-Bernoulli beam, and (iv) reduced-order shape parametrization, real-time simulation capability, and inverse dynamics formulation for controller and observer design. TMTDyn benefits from an internal domain-specific language (DSL) using Matlab’s Object-Oriented capabilities and the concept of fluent interfaces to improve validation, understandability, and maintainability of the constructed models. We have showcased modelling a variety of continuum robots with TMTDyn such as pneumatically and tendon actuated, concentric tube, and growing robots. In this workshop, we cover the basic theories of Soft Robotics kinematics that are implemented in TMTDyn, and showcasing the model for a tendon driven growing robot. The TMTDyn GitHub repository  contains various versions of the code based on the publications, and a final underdeveloped version with a few useful examples. You may watch a Youtube presentation on the underlying theory before the session .
 S. M. H. Sadati et al., ‘TMTDyn: A Matlab package for modeling and control of hybrid rigid–continuum robots based on discretized lumped systems and reduced-order models’, The International Journal of Robotics Research, p. 0278364919881685, Jan. 2020.
Dr. S.M. Hadi Sadati is a CME Research Fellow at Robotics and Vision in Medicine (RViM) Lab, Dep. of Surgical and Interventional Engineering, King’s College London, UK, investigating “Reinventing Catheters by Soft Robotics for Autonomous Robotic Thrombectomy in Acute Stroke (ART)”. He has a M.Sc. and a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the Sharif and Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran, in 2010 and 2012, and a Ph.D. in Robotics from King’s College London, UK, in 2018. He has been a postdoc research associate in Robotic System Engineering at RViM lab in 2019-21, and in Morphological Computation at University of Bristol in 2017-19. He has been a visiting researcher at Learning Algorithms and Systems Lab (LASA), (EPFL), Switzerland in 2019; Dept. Electrical and Computer Eng., Clemson University, SC, USA in 2017; and Dyson School of Design Eng., Imperial College London, UK in 2016-17. His research experience and interests are in the fields of soft robotics, medical robotics, morphological contribution, bioinspiration, system dynamics, control, and mechatronic
Talk scheduled for: Tuesday June 15th, 3.30pm – 5pm CET
Interfacing the human spinal cord with assistive technologies
Alpha motor neurons receive synaptic inputs that they convert into the neural drive to muscles. Therefore, the study of the behaviour of motor neurons provides a window into the neural code for movement generation. The spiking activity of motor neurons can be identified from recordings of electrical activity of muscles using either wearable (non-invasive) or minimally invasive sensors. Using these technologies, motor neurons are the only neural cells whose individual activities can be studied in humans during natural behaviour, without the need for neural implants. This provides a practical interface with the output of the spinal cord. The talk will overview the technology for motor neuron interfacing, its use in the study of the neural control of movement, and its potential for neural interfacing in assistive technologies.
Dario Farina received Ph.D. degrees in automatic control and computer science and in electronics and communications engineering from the Ecole Centrale de Nantes, Nantes, France, and Politecnico di Torino, Italy, in 2001 and 2002, respectively, and an Honorary Doctorate degree in Medicine from Aalborg University, Denmark, in 2018. He is currently Full Professor and Chair in Neurorehabilitation Engineering at the Department of Bioengineering of Imperial College London, UK. He has previously been Full Professor at Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark, (until 2010) and at the University Medical Center Göttingen, Georg-August University, Germany, where he founded and directed the Department of Neurorehabilitation Systems (2010-2016). Among other awards, he has been the recipient of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Early Career Achievement Award (2010), The Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2016), and has been elected Distinguished Lecturer IEEE (2014). He has also received continuous funding by the European Research Council since 2011. His research focuses on biomedical signal processing, neurorehabilitation technology, and neural control of movement. Professor Farina has been the President of the International Society of Electrophysiology and Kinesiology (ISEK) (2012-2014) and is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the official Journal of this Society, the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. He is also currently an Editor for Science Advances, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, IEEE Transactions on Medical Robotics and Bionics, Wearable Technologies, the Journal of Physiology, and IEEE Reviews in Biomedical Engineering. Professor Farina has been elected Fellow IEEE, AIMBE, ISEK, EAMBES.
Talk scheduled for: Wednesday June 16th, 10am – 12pm CET
Robotics in clinical setting for spinal cord injury rehabilitation
The report focuses on the robotic activity carried out at the spinal rehabilitation center of the Santa Lucia Foundation in Rome. Currently, the technological offer in the field of rehabilitation in people with spinal cord injury is very vast and constantly growing, nevertheless even today shared and validated protocols are not available and the real impact of new technologies remains marginal. The experience of the spinal center of the Foundation in the implementation of new technologies within the clinical rehabilitation path in subjects with spinal cord injury has allowed to highlight the clinical and organisational difficulties that must be addressed so that the relapses of the new neurorehabilitation technologies can significantly affect in the clinical setting.
Dr. Marco Molinari (Neurologist, Physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, Director of Neurorehabilitation Translational Research and Clinic 1 at IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome. The Department integrates Neuroscience research and clinical neurological rehabilitation units. The clinical ward is devoted to rehabilitation of patients with brain or spinal cord lesions in a multidisciplinary environment. Research activity has been always focused on brain plasticity mechanisms and functional recovery both at basic science and clinical levels. Basic science approaches in animal models as well as development and testing of new neurorehabilitation technologies in humans characterize Dr Molinari research experience. In the last decade research activities mostly focused on human machine interactions applied to neurological rehabilitation, Dr. Molinari is author of over 250 articles published on indexed journals. Web of Science H-index 56. He is Review Editor of The Cerebellum.
Talk scheduled for: Wednesday June 16th, 12pm – 1pm CET
Mobility Assistive Robots and Future Soft Robots
This talk introduces a variety of assistive robots for supporting the mobility of the users developed based on the passive robotics concept. These robots are moved based on the human applied force passively and support the users by using passive actuators such as brake, spring, etc., which lead to soft robotics. In addition, this talk introduces the moonshot project in Japan. In this project, we will develop a variety of soft robots based on the Robotic Nimbus concept which can change their shape and form according to the user’s condition, environment, and the purpose of the task, and provide appropriate assistance to encourage the user to take independent action.
Yasuhisa Hirata is a Professor in the Department of Robotics at Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan. He received the B.E., M.E., and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Tohoku University in 1998, 2000, and 2004, respectively. He is currently serving as an AdCom member of IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS), an associate vice-president for Technical Activity Board of IEEE RAS, and Co-chairs of IEEE RAS Technical Committee on Rehabilitation and Assistive Robotics.
Talk scheduled for: Wednesday June 16th, 2pm – 3pm CET
Socially Robots for Neurorehabilitation in High and Low Resource Settings
This talk will provide an overview of socially assistive robots applications to rehabilitation and discuss design strategies to improve human-robot interactions from human-human interactions studies.
Michelle J. Johnson, Ph.D., is currently Associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Pennsylvania. She has a secondary appointment as an Associate professor in Bioengineering and is a member of the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics graduate group. She has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, with an emphasis in mechatronics, robotics, and design, from Stanford University. She completed a NSF-NATO post- doctoral fellowship at the Advanced Robotics Technology and Systems Laboratory at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Italy. She directs the Rehabilitation Robotic Research and Design Laboratory located at the Pennsylvania Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine. The lab is also affiliated with the General Robotics Automation Sensing Perception (GRASP) Lab. Dr. Johnson’s lab specializes in the design, development, and therapeutic use of novel, affordable, intelligent robotic assistants for rehabilitation in high and low- resource environments with an emphasis on using robotics and sensors to quantify upper limb motor function in adults and children with brain injury or at risk for brain injury. Dr. Johnson has spent over twenty years applying technology solutions to aid in the understanding of disability and impairment after brain injury. She is currently a Fulbright Scholar for 2020-2022 to Botswana and an IEEE Engineering in Biology and Medicine Society Distinguished Lecturer 2021- 2022.
Talk scheduled for: Wednesday June 16th, 4pm – 5pm CET
Lightweight and nonrestrictive exosuits for the clinic, community, and workplace
This talk will give an overview of collaborated work on developing lightweight and nonrestrictive wearable robot technologies for augmenting and restoring human performance. The performance of the technologies is characterized through biomechanical and physiological studies so as to further the scientific understanding of how humans interact with such wearable devices. The research work is conducted by a multidisciplinary team of students and research staff with backgrounds in engineering, materials science, apparel design, industrial design, biomechanics, and physical therapy, in addition to valuable collaborations with colleagues from Harvard, Boston University, and beyond. The long term vision is for ubiquitous soft wearable robots that can be worn all day, every day, in the community, clinic, and workplace.
Conor Walsh is the Paul A. Maeder Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the John A. Paulson Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and an Associate Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. He is the is the founder of the Harvard Biodesign Lab, which brings together researchers from the engineering, industrial design, apparel, clinical and business communities to develop new disruptive robotic technologies for augmenting and restoring human performance. This research includes new approaches to the design, manufacture and control of wearable robotic devices and characterizing their performance through biomechanical and physiological studies so as to further the scientific understanding of how humans interact with such machines. Example application areas include, enhancing the mobility of healthy individuals, restoring the mobility of patients with gait deficits, assisting those with upper extremity weakness to perform activities of daily living and preventing injuries of workers performing physically strenuous tasks. His multidisciplinary research spans engineering, biology and medicine and has led to multiple high impact scientific papers as well as technology translation. Multiple technologies from the lab have been licensed to industry. He is a co-founder of Verve, Inc. commercialization a back assist exosuit and the ReStore soft exosuit from ReWalk Robotics is now FDA and CE mark approved for use during gait rehabilitation poststroke.
Talk scheduled for: Wednesday June 16th, 5pm – 6pm CET
DEFROST Platform: Modeling, Simulation and Control of Deformable Robots on SOFA Framework
This tutorial will introduce the open source simulation framework SOFA and the SoftRobots plugins to model, simulate and control deformable robots.The goal of the presentation will be to make the link between the mathematical models (Finite Element models, Rigid, Springs, Beams, Cosserat… ) and the code, with interactive examples, in particular for the modeling of a « soft tripod » https://handsonsoftrobotics.lille.inria.fr/. The tutorial will cover the formulation of direct and inverse kinematic models of soft robots.
I received the engineering degree from the Institut Catholique d’Arts et Métiers of Lille, France and a PhD degree in robotics from University of Evry, France. My thesis work was realized at CEA/ Robotics and Interactive Systems Technologies followed by a postdoctoral position at the CIMIT SimGroup in Boston. I arrived at INRIA in 2006 to work on interactive simulation of deformable objects, haptic rendering and medical simulation. I am now the head of DEFROST team, created in January 2015. My research topics are Soft Robot models and control, Fast Finite Element Methods, simulation of contact response and other complex mechanical interactions, new algorithms for haptics… All my research results are developed in SOFA, which is a framework that we co-develop with other INRIA teams. I was also one of the founders of the start-up company InSimo which use our research results for a fantastic humanitarian project HelpMeSee. I recently got the prize « Ernest Déchelle » from the French Académie of Science in applied mathematics.
Talk scheduled for: Thursday June 17th, 10am – 11.30am CET
Other speakers’ information will be published shortly.