Democratization of Soft Robotics through Embodied Intelligence

IEEE RoboSoft Full-day Workshop
When: April 14th, 2024
Where: Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, 207 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

Building upon the success of the annual Conference on Embodied Intelligence, this workshop aims to advance discussions on democratizing soft robotics through the perspective of embodied intelligence. 

The workshop’s objectives are twofold:
1) Explore the convergence of embodied intelligence and soft robotics technology, drawing insights from recent advancements to address conceptual challenges and translate them into tangible, physical solutions.
2) Broaden participation by engaging soft robotics researchers from diverse communities.

By emphasizing collaboration and community engagement, this workshop actively contributes to the ongoing paradigm shift in soft robotics research. It advocates for a holistic and inclusive approach to technological advancement, echoing the success and significance of previous discussions within the collaborative community. To push the boundaries of soft robotics, our commitment lies in fostering a community-driven approach to technological development, with a dedicated focus on embodied intelligence to bridge the gap between technology and human experiences.

Program at a Glance

All times are in California time. 

8:15 – 8:30Welcome, agenda, introductionWorkshop organizers
8:30 – 9:30Invited speaker talksIlana Nisky, Jonas Jørgensen, Tania Morimoto, Thrish Nanayakkara, Invited students
9:30 – 9:40Student flash-talksPoster finalists
9:40 – 10:00DiscussionEveryone
10:00 – 10:30Coffee, poster, demos
10:30 – 11:30Invited speaker talksDana Damian, Thilina Lalitharatne, Barbara Mazzolai, Richard Futrell, Invited students
11:30 – 12:00Discussion & AM wrap-upEveryone
12:00 – 13:30Lunch break
13:30 – 14:50Summary & Invited speaker talksAnkur Mehta, Eduardo Bayro-Corrochano, Onur Özcan, Cecilia Laschi, David Howard
14:50 – 15:05Soft robots on a budget pitchesCompetition finalists
15:05 – 15:30DiscussionEveryone
15:30 – 16:00Coffee break
16:00 – 16:45Invited speaker talksAdam Stokes, Laura Blumenschein, Fumiya Iida
16:45 – 17:05DiscussionEveryone
17:05 – 17:15Wrap up & Next stepsWorkshop organizers

Our Speakers and Provisional Titles


All times are in California time. 

Morning Session: Democratization through embodied intelligence technology

8:15 – Welcome & Intro
8:30 – Prof. Ilana Nisky: “Embodied intelligence in physical interaction between surgeons and robots” [Online]
8:45 – Prof. Jonas
Jørgensen: “Embodied Knowledge for Embodied Intelligence: Interfacing Art-Based Methods and Soft Robotics” [Online]
9:00 – Prof. Tania Morimoto: “Soft haptic interfaces for teleoperating continuum robots”
9:15 – Prof. Thrish Nanayakkara: “How interactive robotic patients can help medical trainees to be robust in diverse social contexts”
9:30 – Student Flash-talks
9:30 – Xiaohao Xu: “Robust Embodied Perception for Soft Robots: How Far Are We There?”
9:30 – Mahdiar Edraki: “Striking a Target with a Whip: From Human to Robot Control”
9:30 – Fuchen Chen: “Steerable Walking with Vibrating Soft Twisted Beams”
9:40 – Discussion
10:00 – Coffee, posters, demos
10:30 – Prof. Dana Damian: “More fluidics, less electronics: soft robots based on minimal and accessible resources, with applications to healthcare” [Online]
10:45 – Prof. Thilina Lalitharatne: Information Theory and Embodied Social Interactions
11:00 – Prof. Barbara Mazzolai: “Embodied Intelligence in plants and plantoids”
11:15 – Prof. Richard Futrell: “Information bottlenecks in human language processing”
11:30 – Discussion & morning wrap-up
12:00 – Lunch break

Afternoon Session: Democratization through community actions

13:30 – Welcome back to the afternoon session
13:35 – Prof. Ankur Mehta: “The power of paper
13:50 – Prof. Eduardo Bayro-Corrochano: “Low budget – Basic research”
14:05 – Prof. Onur Özcan: “Lowering the price point of soft robots as a means to democratization
14:20 – Prof. Cecilia Laschi: “Embodied Intelligence for soft robotics sustainable growth
14:35 – Prof. David Howard: Democratizing research, the infrastructure and modality needed
14:50 – Soft Robotics on a Budget Pitches
14:50 – “Tubot” by Alberto Comoretto and Team
14:50 – “Vibration-based Soft Robot” by Viet Linh Nguyen and Team 
14:50 – “A Soft Robot made from Garbage” by Dan Sameoto and Team
15:05 – Discussion
15:30 – Coffee break
16:00 – Prof. Adam Stokes: Funding, collaborations, start-ups in soft robotics
16:15 – Prof. Laura Blumenschein: Democratization and benchmarking in soft robotics
16:30 – Prof. Fumiya Iida: Big visions and EI community
16:45 – Discussion
17:05 – Wrap up and next steps

Calls for Contributions

We welcome participants in the workshop to present a physical poster or a demo. The submitted contributions will be reviewed based on the originality, technical contributions, clarity in presentation, and relevance to the workshop topics. Contributions can be submitted as a maximum of 2-page abstract of your work with title, author names, and affiliations. Submission form is here

The deadline for contribution submission is March 24, 2024. The best contributions will be selected for a 3-minute flash talk during the workshop program. Contribution acceptance will be notified by March 31, 2024. Accepted submissions may become part of a journal submission after the workshop.

If you have any questions and feedback, please send an email to Nana Obayashi.

“Soft Robotics on a Budget” is a global robot design competition. Participants from around the world will compete in coming up with the most ingenious solution to a specific, real-life robotics problem. There is only one catch: the entire robot must be built on an extremely low budget, under $50.

This limitation will encourage the participants to showcase their creativity in using easily accessible DIY materials, tools, and equipment, to create robot prototypes that are subtle in their simple, low-cost nature, yet extremely powerful in terms of delivering capability that is on par with expensive, state-of-the-art devices: a hallmark of the embodied intelligence offered by the rapidly evolving field of biologically inspired, and soft, robotics.

We encourage participation from early-stage researchers, as well as students; the 3 winners (or winning teams) will be invited to present their designs at the workshop. 

The initiative is an excellent opportunity to get involved with soft robotics research; the extremely low barrier to entry empowers participants from disenfranchised communities, as well as low-income countries. In showcasing one’s skills to the whole soft robotics community, and the leading researchers in the field, the participants and winners will be able to strongly boost their portfolio, and even put themselves in front of possible future employers, or postgraduate project supervisors.

Submissions should be sent to Kyle Walker by 31 March, 2024.