Softbotics research

Carnegie Mellon is a driving force to bring robotic systems into our everyday lives by building robots and robotic systems to improve performance in our work, play, and health.

Robots in the future will no longer be defined as heavy machines. Tomorrow’s robots will be smaller and designed for everyday purposes, with electronics nested into soft, technologically advanced materials.

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.

Depositing chemicals onto circuit board

Use of bio-inspired materials will dramatically change the way robotics can be applied. Materials are the bottleneck. The goal of Sobtbotics is to create soft robotic materials that safely interact with people. 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

Target outcomes

Collaborating departments
  • MechE
  • ECE
  • MSE
  • CEE
  • ChemE
  • Robotics Institute
  • Chemistry
  • HCI

Softbotics will enable soft robotic systems that have far reaching uses in robotics and HCI.

  • Wearable haptic interface wireless, soft, lightweight, and capable of tactile/kinesthetic sensing and feedback teleoperation, immersive VR/AR training, assistance for people with disabilities
  • Smart reconfigurable orthotics, prosthetics, and casts embedded sensing, actuation, and stiffness-tuning materials to autonomously conform to the body motor assistance, injury recovery, and rehabilitation
  • Soft robotic tissues artificial skin, nervous tissue, and muscle, assistive robotic systems that are safe for physical interactions with humans