Modelling embodied intelligence in soft fluidic networks with FONS

Inflatable soft robots are much more than soft actuators for gripping delicate objects. They are rich dynamic structures capable of memory and computations all on their own. Carefully designed soft robotic systems therefore do not require any electronic control at all to perform complex functions. Instead, their geometry and materials automatically react to stimuli from the user or from the environment in a meaningful way. This concept is called embodied intelligence and promises extremely cheap, robust or small soft robots capable of autonomously executing tasks in complex environments. However, as of yet it is unclear how to design soft robots such that they accomplish a certain function automatically. To answer this need, we are developing a python library called FONS (Fluidic Object-oriented Network Simulator).

Continue reading “Modelling embodied intelligence in soft fluidic networks with FONS”

Job openings

We are currently looking for two PhD students!

Both PhD projects will be part of the ERC starting grant of prof. Benjamin Gorissen, on building interactive fluidic state machines for soft robotics, called project ILUMIS. Both will be transforming the field of soft robotics by harnessing nonlinearities in a fluidic network, one focusing on the interconnections between, the other on the fluid inside.

About ILUMIS: Actuation, energy storage, sensing, and logic are four functionalities of both natural and artificial organisms, giving them the ability to thrive in their environment. As demonstrated in nature by the common octopus, the distribution of these four functionalities throughout the body creates a blueprint for autonomous and intelligent behavior. This concept of ‘functional embodiment’ is currently non-existing in soft robotics. ILUMIS will create soft robots with embodied functionality by transitioning from a conventional robotic architecture to a fluidic network architecture. Further, by incorporating nonlinearities in all the network elements, the global system acts as a state machine, meaning that the output not only depends on the input, but also on its internal state. How to navigate this state space will be encoded within the nonlinearities, creating embodied intelligence. ILUMIS will overcome the main challenges of inverse design, where a desired behavior requires the optimization of a network of nonlinear structures. Thereby ILUMIS will create a new blueprint for soft robotic design with embodied functionality that closes the gap with nature’s soft organisms.

Please use the links below for more information and to apply!



Intelligence emerges from complexity

When looking at soft robots, people may immediately see movable rubbery structures and be astounded by such devices, which recall octopus tentacles, earthworms and other organisms. But already at a second sight, some might question the effectiveness of such compliant structures when compared to well-known hard robots, which revolutionized automation and manufacturing industries, and start wondering where the main weaknesses lie. Continue reading “Intelligence emerges from complexity”

Bachelor project work on soft robotics

During the first semester of the 2017-2018 academic year, 42 bachelor students were involved in a soft robotics project course, organized at the faculty of engineering science of the KULeuven . In groups of 6, the goal was to design and fabricate a soft robotic leg with only one pneumatic supply tube that is able to perform a stepping motion. The astonishing results were shown during the open demoday, and can be seen below. A big congratulations to all teams!

Benjamin Gorissen