For more than 40 years, Carnegie Mellon has been a leader in robotics technology.
Over the years, we have led many research successes across the university in intelligent manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, space-related robots, medical robotics, nano-machines, and computer vision and graphics.
As transformative change is coming to robotics functionality at various scales, these systems will bring new value to the world.
An exciting future of robotics will be based on the possibilities offered by the fusion of new engineering advances, including soft materials and components, integrated microsystems, biomaterials, soft/bio/nano sensors and actuators, and advanced control to enable functionality and applications not previously possible.
The use of bio-inspired materials will dramatically change the way robotics can be applied. These next-generation systems of multiple scales will become ubiquitous over time as they smoothly integrate into our everyday lives where human will cohabitate with many cooperating robotic devices—some seen, some unseen.
This highly interdisciplinary paradigm in engineering will impact industries such as healthcare, automation and manufacturing, cooperative human assistance, and many others.
Building robotics into everyday life
Softbotics will allow robots to be built at multiple scales. Their autonomous functionality will assist and enhance human performance, which will be intrinsically achieved at the materials level with limited or no dependency on traditional machines, motors, or computing. New energy sources for electronics will be nested within flexible or organic materials. Softbotics will be built to adapt to complex environments and will be biocompatible.
- Microrobots: Machines and robots that are smaller than an insect
- Microscale manufacturing: Manufacturing methods that harness the precision and scalability of the semiconductor industry
- Living machines: Create machines out of biological materials and living cells
- Biohybrid devices: Merge biology with synthetic materials to create hybrid robotic systems
- Artificial nervous tissue: Replace bulky computing with soft, stretchable electronics for sensing and signal processing
- Artificial muscle: Lightweight and power dense materials that can change shape and stiffness on command
Existing materials are passive. Active functionality currently requires bulky hardware.
The next generation of materials needs more than integrated sensors and actuators. They need to be highly-integrated, complex, and symbiotic systems that are safe, soft, intelligent, interactive, and adaptive.
Materials are the bottleneck. The goal of Softbotics is to create soft robotic materials that interact with the human body. We need robotic materials that are:
- Scalable: integrate robot tissue with a thousand actuators and a million sensors.
- Strong and gentle: develop actuation and sensors that have high dynamic range
- Intelligent: use learning to make robots inexpensive
- Robust: reduce lifetime costs and extend lifetimes
- Plug-and-play: develop systems that do not require large engineering efforts by a user to add to robots and use effectively.