Soft systems are a promising direction for creating future leading technologies capable of both interacting with and assisting humans, by negotiating useful tasks in the environment. Human/environment-machine interactions are highly critical, and the use of soft sensing that is intelligent with flexible electronics and processing, fully symbiotic with soft movement is imperative. The scientific goal of this research line is to investigate natural-like physical interactions and create new soft and embodied sensing processes, with a focus on touch, for totally new robotic solutions that can ‘see the world’ and intelligently interact with it.
Our activities are based on three major areas: biomechanics of touch, embodied 3D soft transduction and bioinspired soft robotic systems for active touch investigation. Our work is articulated among various interplaying parts that involve: the study of selected biological models, material selection and characterization, design of system and of transduction mechanism – including modelling, fabrication with designed technological process, development of suitable signal processing (software and hardware). 3D fabrication technologies across multiple scales are investigated with soft non-linear materials (passive and conductive) (e.g. conductive polymers, conductive textiles, composite materials with fillers/particles as metals/CNT/graphene, responsive hydrogels, conductive fibers etc.), and several transduction principles applied (e.g. optical, inductive, piezoelectric, capacitive, resistive, etc.). Sensing features at low and high level are either directly extracted or investigated by means of cutting edge AI technologies.