Max Planck Intelligent Systems Colloquium, Stuttgart

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Towards more Life-like Robots: Integrating Soft Actuators and Sensors with Multi-Scale Manufacturing Methods for novel Capabilities in Biorobotics

  • Date: Jul 13, 2017
  • Time: 14:00 - 15:00
  • Speaker: Dr. Ardian Jusufi, Centre for Autonomous Systems, School of Electrical, Mechanical and Mechatronic Systems, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, University of Technology, Sydney
  • Location: MPI IS Stuttgart, Heisenbergstr. 3
  • Room: 3P 2
  • Host: Dr. Metin Sitti, Professor (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
  • Contact:


The new frontier of Soft Robotics combines flexible, active materials and soft sensors to unlock new capabilities in robots. Soft robots made of composite silicone rubber with hollow glass microspheres and Kevlar fabric can traverse hostile terrain, walk through fire and withstand chemicals -- they can be driven over and still operate unimpeded. Other soft pneumatic actuators have even become edible. Soft robots’ greater versatility and reduced danger encourages people to interact with them, stimulating innovation. Despite remarkable advances, robots currently are much less capable of action than biological organisms. Animals have perturbation-response: they can adjust their locomotion to external disturbances and challenges by combining behavior with materials- and structure-based responses in ingenious ways barely dreamt of by robotics engineers. For the successful navigation of highly three-dimensional terrain that challenges both robots’ and animals locomotor systems, both sensory and mechanical feedback are important. Organismic evolution has discovered principles of embodiment that work with the passive dynamical properties of the system to simplify the control of locomotion. Comparative biomechanics and functional morphology reveals that animals are made up of heterogeneous materials that are predominantly compliant. By drawing inspiration from nature, this project aims to enhance the robustness of robots navigating irregular terrestrial and aquatic environments. Our physical model based approach integrates design mechatronics and soft active materials for experimental validation. In a project on climbing capability, study of the rapid vertical locomotion of arboreal lizards has provided biological inspiration for the design of an active tail on a climbing robot and improved its performance. 3D-printing as well as MEMS-based manufacturing techniques are used in climbing robots to enhance traction control using mechanically interlocking spines on legs and tails for distributed mechanical feedback. Moreover, to study undulatory mechanics of swimming in a robotic fish, soft pneumatic actuators are utilized for body stiffness control. To close the loop embedded soft sensors containing microchannels filled with liquid metal are used for fin curvature measurement.


Ardian Jusufi earned his PhD at U. C. Berkeley in the CiBER Center for integrative Bioinspiration in Education and Research. He then went to the Harvard Micro-Robotics Lab at the Wyss Institute of Biologically-Inspired Engineering for postdoctoral training. The Swiss National Science Foundation awarded a Fellowship for Prospective Researchers as well as a Postdoc Mobility Fellowship in support of Ardian’s cross-disciplinary research which has been featured in multiple high-impact journals.

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