Keynote: Soft Robotics: Ongoing Research, Commercial Systems and Future Directions

Thursday, May 24, 2018

10:00 am – 10:45 am

Presenter: George Whitesides, Professor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University;
Principal Investigator, Whitesides Research Group, Harvard University

The unassuming term “soft robotics”, robotic systems that exist at the intersection of robotics technology and materials chemistry, has recently made its way from the rarefied environs of academic journals and scholarly symposia and into the mainstream. Soft robotics products and enabling technologies entirely composed of soft, compliant materials, or enclosing rigid, internal forms, are now commercially available, and more are under development. Examples include soft grippers capable of grasping and manipulating objects that are fragile, deformable or otherwise ill-suited for traditional grippers and grasping mechanisms. Other solutions support safer human-robot interaction, or allow systems to locomote in unstructured, irregular environments that would be prohibitive to traditional, rigid robotics forms.

In this keynote session, George Whitesides will describe ongoing soft robotics research at Harvard’s Whitesides Research Group, as well as commercial class soft robotics systems currently on the market or nearly so. Topics related to materials, sensing, control and actuation will be discussed, along with how inherently flexible soft robotics systems can be engineered to provide for novel capabilities and support task versatility.