Soft Surface With Reconfigurable Shape and Stiffness
A variety of reconfigurable surface devices, utilizing large numbers of actuated physical pixels to produce discretized 3D contours, have been developed for different purposes in research and industry. The difficulty of integrating many actuators in close configuration has limited the DoF and resolution and performance of existing devices. Utilizing vacuum power and soft material actuators, we have developed a soft reconfigurable surface (SRS) with multi-modal control and performance capabilities. The SRS is comprised of a square grid array of linear vacuum-powered soft pneumatic actuators (linear V-SPAs), built into plug-and-play modules which enable the arrangement, consolidation, and control of many DoF. In addition to the practical benefits of system integration, this architecture facilitates the construction of customized assemblies with an overall compact form factor. A series of experiments is performed to illustrate and validate the versatility of the SRS for achieving diverse tasks including force controlled modulation of interface pressure through integrated sensors, lateral manipulation of a variety of objects, static and dynamic shape and pattern generation for haptic interaction, and variable surface stiffness tuning. This SRS concept is scalable, space efficient and features diverse functional potential. This will extend the utility and accessibility of tangible robotic interfaces for future applications from industrial to home and personal use.