This is a guest blog post written by Cecilia Laschi, OCTOPUS and RoboSoft projects coordinator
The OCTOPUS large project set a completely new research direction in robotics by building robots with soft materials. Biologists, roboticists, computer scientists and material scientists dived deep into the study of this fascinating marine creature and the key working principles of its dexterity and intelligence. A span of technologies were then investigated and applied in a new way, to build robot parts and actuators, sensors and controls. Towards the end of the project (2013), an eight-arm soft robot was let free in the water of our experimental tanks, to be observed and measured.
OCTOPUS was funded by the Future and Emerging Technologies scheme, which supports visionary projects, with a high potential for disruptive innovation, in science and technology.
While many challenges on the enabling technologies are still open, in materials, actuation, sensing, control, and many more, roboticists and potential end users envisage already a wide range of applications. The soft robotics technologies elaborated by OCTOPUS are being used in the STIFF-FLOP large project , developing an endoscope with controllable stiffness, in the I-SUPPORT project developing a soft arm helping elderly people in the shower, in the Marie Sklodowska Curie ITN Smart-e, exploring the use of soft robots in industrial manufacturing, and in a few other projects funded at national or local level.
Building the soft robotics community with RoboSoft
Soft robotics is currently one of the top challenges in robotics, and it is being widely investigated by research institutions from Europe, USA, and Japan.
The FET project RoboSoft, is now helping to gather and consolidate the soft robotics community in Europe and beyond. We are currently organising the first RoboSoft Grand Challenge (April 2016, Italy), which aims at inspiring and pushing innovations in soft robotics technology. It is the first outdoor challenge of soft robots, with tasks in three different competitions: in terrestrial locomotion, underwater exploration and dextrous manipulation. It is open to international teams of experts in soft robotics, young researchers and students, but also to the wide public and curiosity driven people able to compete in this field.
Stay tuned about our activities and follow us on Twitter: @RoboSoft_CA