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An increasing number of robots are made of soft materials. Because they are inherently safe to interact with, soft robots have been widely used in human-robot interactions. Moreover, due to their flexibility, they adapt to their environment, requiring less precision in certain tasks like grasp planning.

Nonetheless, soft robotic state estimation has its unique challenges. In general, soft robots are underactuated and have infinitely many degrees of freedom. They undergo large deformations and hence display a highly nonlinear hyperelastic behaviour. Furthermore, because many applications involve contact, we require state estimation algorithms to scale well and perform robustly in contact-rich interactions with humans or environments. To balance precision and timing requirements, novel proprioceptive sensing and Modeling are needed to estimate a soft robot’s state efficiently and effectively. Real-time state estimation also paves the way towards closed-loop control of soft robots.

This workshop aims to exchange new knowledge, discover inspiring trends, and advance integrated software and hardware techniques for soft robot sensing and the estimation of their internal states, such as geometric shape and properties, strain- and stress-related quantities in quasi-static settings, and velocities and accelerations in dynamic settings. Our goal is to connect communities and stimulate collaborative research.

Invited Speakers

Invited Speakers

Edward H. Adelson


Tactile Sensing, Learning-based Sensing

Robert Shepherd

Cornell University

Soft Robotics and Soft Sensors

Oliver Brock

Technische Universität Berlin

Biology-Inspired & Learning-based Robotics

Daniele Panozzo


Graphics & Simulation for Soft Robotics

Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio

Yale University

Soft Robotics, Multifunctional Materials

Miguel Otaduy

Universidad Rey Juan Carlos

Soft Body Simulation, Model-based Optimization

Mike Tolley

University of California, San Diego

Soft Robotics and Self-Assembly

Extended Abstract Submission

We invite researchers working on related topics to submit abstracts or extended abstracts (no longer than 4 pages in IROS paper format, including references; you may add appendix after references) that can contribute to this workshop. The accepted extended abstracts will be publicly available on this workshop website until the end of IROS'21.

Note: we DO allow previously published papers to be presented in this workshop, because the accepted extended abstracts in this workshop will NOT be published in the IROS'21 proceeding.

Desired Works could:

  • identify novel state estimation theories and algorithms for robots with parts made of soft materials,
  • discuss state estimation in the context of applications in soft robotics, human-robot interaction, or wearable devices,
  • demonstrate real-time state estimation with limited precision for closed-loop or accurate state estimation for open-loop control,
  • describe novel integrated hard- and software prototypes of proprioceptive soft robots,
  • review and benchmark various methods proposed by different communities (e.g., robotics, HCI, HRI) with the ultimate goal to enhance the mutual understanding of challenges and opportunities related to this workshop.

Important Dates

Extended Abstract Submission (submit via this Google Form):

August 31, 2021, 5PM eastern time.

Extended Abstract Acceptance:

September 07, 2021, 5PM eastern time.

Final Version Submission:

September 21, 2021, 5PM eastern time.

Special Issue (Full Manuscript, see below) Submission:

September 31, 2021, 5PM eastern time.

Associated Special Issue

The organizers are currently guest editing a special issue on the same research topic . The potential authors would also be invited to participate in this workshop. Authors of the selected abstracts would be invited to submit the full version of their works to this special issue.

Topics of Interest

  • Soft body state Modeling and estimation
  • Soft sensor design
  • Shape and tactile sensing
  • Machine learning for soft robotics
  • Soft robot simulation
  • High-resolution soft body proprioception
  • Contact force/torque estimation
  • Joint proprioception and tactile sensing
  • Real-time state estimation for soft bodies
  • New mechanisms or principles for soft body state estimation
  • Simulation and differentiable simulation for soft body state estimation
  • Learning-based tactile sensing
  • Learning-based proprioception
  • Self-calibration for soft robot state estimation
  • Soft robot co-design for state estimation and closed-loop control
  • Perspectives on challenges and open questions
  • Benchmarking experiments for comparing sensing techniques and state estimation algorithms

Program (Sep. 27, 2021; Recordings will be posted soon!)

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Time (CEST UTC+2) Talk (recordings of each talk will be available below soon!)
14:00 – 14:05    Welcome / Introductions   
14:05 – 14:20    Oliver Brock: Multi-Purpose Sensorization of Soft-Material Robots   
14:20 – 14:35    Miguel A. Otaduy: Model-based Optimization for Skin Sensing and Actuation   
14:35 – 14:50    Robert Shepherd: Stretchable Optoelectronics as a Simple Hardware Solution for Tactile Perception   
14:50 – 15:00    Pre-recorded 2-minute short presentations
  • PHUC D H BUI, Joshua Schultz. Observer Design for a Fabric-reinforced Inflatable Soft Robot. [Abstract] [Video]
  • Seonggun Joe, Hongbo Wang, Massimo Totaro, Lucia Beccai. Sensing deformation in vacuum driven foam-based actuator via inductive method. [Abstract] [Video]
  • Dongbo Liang, Yinghao Gao, Hailin Huang, and Bing Li. The design of a rigid-flexible coupling origami gripper. [Abstract] [Video]
  • Zhitong Liu, Yinghao Gao, Hailin Huang, Bing Li. A Novel Robotic Gripper Using Modular, Metamorphic, and Rigid-Flexible Mechanisms. [Abstract] [Video]
  • Chupeng Tang, Hailin Huang. A Real-time Tracking and Actuating Method for Magnetic Driven Worm-like Micro-robot. [Abstract] [Video]
15:00 – 15:15    Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio: Integrated Sensing in Robotic Skins and Robotic Fabrics   
15:15 – 15:30    Edward H. Adelson: Skillful Manipulation with Soft Fingertips   
15:30 – 15:45    Daniele Panozzo: Robust and Accurate Deformable Simulation for Robotics   
15:45 – 16:00    Mike Tolley: Learning Soft Robot Displacements and Applied Forces from Embedded Soft Sensors   
16:00 – 16:30    Panel Discussion