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Robotics: Science preceding science fiction

  • Hortense Le Ferrand (a1)


Robots and artificial machines have been captivating the public for centuries, depicted first as threats to humanity, then as subordinates and helpers. In the last decade, the booming exposure of humans to robots has fostered an increasing interest in soft robotics. By empowering robots with new physical properties, autonomous actuation, and sensing mechanisms, soft robots are making increasing impacts on areas such as health and medicine. At the same time, the public sympathy to robots is increasing. However, there is still a great need for innovation to push robotics toward more diverse applications. To overcome the major limitation of soft robots, which lies in their softness, strategies are being explored to combine the capabilities of soft robots with the performance of hard metallic ones by using composite materials in their structures. After reviewing the major specificities of hard and soft robots, paths to improve actuation speed, stress generation, self-sensing, and actuation will be proposed. Innovations in controlling systems, modeling, and simulation that will be required to use composite materials in robotics will be discussed. Finally, based on recently developed examples, the elements needed to progress toward a new form of artificial life will be described.

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This article is an invited contribution from the MRS Bulletin Postdoctoral Publication Prize given to Hortense Le Ferrand, Nanyang Technological University, at the 2018 MRS Fall Meeting in Boston, Mass.



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Robotics: Science preceding science fiction

  • Hortense Le Ferrand (a1)


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