A daunting challenge for robotics is gripping in complex environments, such as during surgery in the human body or harvesting in farmed crop fields. These environments consist of soft tissues, thin membranes, brittle bones, textured surfaces, and viscoelastic fluids, whose physical properties differ significantly from the materials traditionally encountered in engineering applications. Developments in the field of soft robotics have led to new types of grippers that offer gentle, deformable contact with embodied intelligence and haptic feedback. Fundamental research into sensorimotor integration and contact mechanics are currently being pursued to address the challenges due to infinite degrees of freedom and nonlinear mechanical responses in soft grasping.
This focus session brings together four speakers to present some of the multidisciplinary approaches used to understand the complex dynamics and mechanics underlying grasping interactions and how they influence design and control of soft robotic systems. prof.dr. Metin Sitti (Max Planck Institute) will speak on advances in the integration of bio-inspired adhesion in robotics. prof.dr. Jeroen Smeets (VU) will present his research on human grasping and sensorimotor integration. Furthermore, dr. Preeti Sharma (WUR) and dr.ir. Michaël Wiertlewski (TUD), who are both involved in the 4TU Dutch Soft Robotics consortium, will respectively discuss bio-inspired functional surfaces for soft robotic grippers and sensing and modeling of tactual textures.