Our research spans a wide range of current robotics topics, including soft robotics, perception, haptics and intelligent systems interacting with the environment. More information is provided here.
Perception for the Interaction with the Environment
One important research focus is to create robots that truly interact with their environment. At the core of this research is the creation of systems that can manipulate objects and interact with humans using embedded force and tactile sensing technology to achieve appropriate and safe physical interaction with the environment. At Team Robotix, we create sensing technologies that can be integrated with the bodies of robotics structures to measure the interaction forces and control/optimise the interaction dynamics. The work leads to efficient and safe control of various robotic systems and finds applications in rehabilitation and assistive technologies as well as robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery. We also develop and evaluate advanced graphical user interfaces, virtual reality environments and haptic interfaces.
Soft, Silicon Robots
Our soft robotics research looks at using compliant materials to design and build robots that can conform to their environment and work with humans in a safer way. This includes silicone robots such as in the image above but also fabric based robots. Our robots are actuated pneumatically and capable of lifting several times their weight.
Our work spans a full suite of soft robotic technologies such as soft manipulators, grippers, underwater and biomimetic robots for application to industry, healthcare, and extreme environments. In this regard, we conduct research on the development of novel soft actuation methods, sensing technologies, and control techniques.
Social and Healthcare Robotics
Team Robotix has been exploring a wide range of solutions that are applicable in the healthcare field. These include soft robotic exoskeletons and wearable robotic solutions, supporting human mobility of disabled people as well as workers operating in industrial scenarios.
Robots for Extreme Environments
SAPHIR is a partner in the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR) to develop soft manipulators, so-called eversion robots, made from fabrics, and capable of growing from their tip to tens of metres in length in a fashion similar to growing vine. SAPHIR has developed innovative approaches so that these structures can elongate from the tip as well as to precisely control the motion of these robotic manipulators achieving multiple degrees of freedom in bending. They are compliant and therefore are capable of safely interacting with the environment around them as they grow through narrow pipelines and tight openings. These pneumatic and tendon driven robots will greatly enhance the capabilities of conducting complex sensing and manipulation tasks in remote, constrained and otherwise inaccessible areas.
Complementing these actuation techniques, we are developing low cost bending sensors based on optical fibres that can be embedded into such soft eversion robots as well as fabric-based grippers to provide sensory feedback. The low transmission losses in the optical fibres will enable placing the readout electronics far from the working areas which are potentially radioactive, achieving a greatly improved sensor lifetime when compared to standard sensors relying on sensitive electronics.