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Soft Continuum Systems in Nature and Robotics - Workshop IEEE RoboSoft 2021

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Soft Continuum Systems in Nature and Robotics - Workshop IEEE RoboSoft 2021

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The workshop focuses on the many continuum structures that can be observed in nature, from animal to plants, and on the advantages they give by enabling a multitude of tasks otherwise impossible. The focus is not only on the wonders of continuum actuation, but wants to switch a light on sensitive structures, which are smoothly integrated and similarly arranged in a continuum way and on strategies used for controlling such hyper-redundant, flexible bodies.

Similar structures in robotics may enable unprecedented tasks: continuum robots can bend, but also extend/contract and sometimes twist at any point along their structure. This provides them with capabilities beyond the scope of their rigid-link counterparts in grasping and manipulation, as well as in a variety of other functions. As it will be highlighted through the talks, if, from one side, the potentiality of the approach has been recognised by roboticists, who are funnelling the morphological characteristics of natural continuum structures in the design of bio-inspired robots; on the other side, these new artefacts still show limited sensors integration, basic control capabilities and limited force generation.

The workshop aims at providing a meeting point for the main disciplines involved in the challenge of building a new generation of continuum, sensorized robots: biology, material science and robotics.

The workshop then includes lectures on the principles of continuum structures in nature, like muscular hydrostats; presentations of the advances in smart materials and fabrication techniques, and descriptions of the robotics technologies involved in continuum actuation, sensing and control. Within this workshop we do not aim at providing answers to the technological problems rather at presenting insights and challenges, and at stimulating an interdisciplinary discussion, raising new questions for research.

The workshop consists in a number of scheduled short talks, on the topics described above, and includes two more sessions, open to discussion and presentations from the communities involved. A session will be devoted to short ‘pitches’ of abstracts that will be selected through an open call. A final discussion session will be devoted to raise issues, outline challenges and draw conclusions on the research questions ahead. The discussion will be guided by a moderator and supported by tools that participants can use in advance, in the days before the workshop, and during the event, to share their opinions and ideas. Small surveys and statistics will help identify issues and stimulate the discussion.

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, and more), 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 workshop derives from the activities of the PROBOSCIS project (www.proboscis.eu), funded by the EC to a consortium of 5 partners, led by the Italian Institute of Technology. The project provides further opportunities for dissemination and for reaching out to diverse scientific communities.


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