Prof. Katzschmann: Creation and Control of Soft Robots Tackling Manipulation and Locomotion Challenges

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in-person: B19, Hall 1; virtual participation: Zoom

Creation and Control of Soft Robots Tackling Manipulation and Locomotion Challenges


As a scientist and educator, I build robots that safely interact with Nature. Living organisms are flexible, versatile, and adaptive due to their soft, deformable, and integrative characteristics. These features inspire my robotic fish, walkers, hands, and flying machines. My robots comprise soft and rigid functional materials, and they sense the world through intelligent and flexible electronics. They can move dynamically under internal fluidic pressure or electrostatic stimulation. They can adaptively manipulate objects under and above water because the functional materials seamlessly integrate with intelligent controllers. The controllers consist of models and learning techniques that capture structural and fluidic behaviors and enable locomotion, object manipulation, and medical applications. I also make biohybrid robots by combining living materials, such as biological cells and tissue, with inanimate materials. Biohybrids are energy-efficient, biocompatible, and multifunctional.

Brief Biography

Robert Katzschmann is Assistant Professor of Robotics and head of ETH's Soft Robotics Lab. His research group advances robots' abilities for real-life applications by being more compliant and adapting better to their environment when solving challenging tasks in locomotion and object manipulation. His group takes inspiration from living creatures and develops soft robots with deformable properties that achieve functions not possible with traditional robots. The Soft Robotics Lab advances the design, fabrication, modeling, control, and learning techniques tailored to the needs of soft robotic systems. Demonstrations of his robot's capabilities are real-world applications such as a robotic fish for underwater locomotion, soft robotic hands for pick-and-place tasks, and multi-segment arms for dynamic object manipulation. Robert's work has appeared in leading academic journals, including Science Robotics, and has been featured in major news outlets, including the New York Times. Robert is a member of the ETH AI Center, the Max Planck ETH Center for Learning Systems (CLS), and the ETH Competence Center for Materials and Processes (MaP). Robert is an Area Chair for Robotics Science and Systems (RSS), a Guest Editor for the International Journal on Robotics Research (IJRR), and a reviewer for leading peer-reviewed journals, including Science and Nature.

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