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Proboscidean sensitive soft robot for versatile gripping

Project description

Universal grippers inspired by the elephant’s trunk

From autonomous assembly lines, personal robot helpers, sorting robots in food production, and search & rescue operations, future robotic technology must deal with versatility (even beyond human capability), by hinging on new forms of intelligence like those originating from concurrent bioinspired design, artificial touch, and soft yet strong actuation. The EU-funded PROBOSCIS project will develop a new paradigm for extremely versatile tactile-driven robotic manipulation, embodying the extraordinary functionality of an elephant’s trunk. It will design a continuum manipulator, with no sharp distinction between arm and gripper, consisting of proprioceptive biomimetic artificial muscles and an artificial tactile skin with a unique sensitivity-toughness trade off. PROBOSCIS will produce technological breakthroughs in the form of a new generation of universal grippers with unprecedented capabilities that are deeply rooted in and enabled by elephants’ biology and behavior, triggering successful assistive, industrial, domestic, rescue and environmental applications.

Objective

Universal robotic gripping remains a challenge at the frontiers of science. In contrast, elephants perform soft yet strong reaching, grasping, collection, sucking, siphoning, and manipulation of both solid and liquid matter, on a very large range of payloads and sizes – all with their prehensile, tactile-sensitive trunk. In PROBOSCIS we will establish a totally new paradigm for extremely versatile tactile-driven robotic manipulation, embodying the extraordinary functionality of the elephant trunk. This ambitious research programme aims at: morphological and behavioural characterisation of the African bush elephant trunk; bioinspired design of a continuum manipulator with elephant-like dexterity and versatility; multifunctional materials for reliable perceptive soft robotics; bioinspired control for tactile-driven soft manipulation; bioinspired tough tactile skin and 3D sensing strategies. A remarkable sample of an adult elephant trunk will be analysed by scaling up 3D histology techniques. Based on the trunk morphology, we will design a continuum robotic arm consisting of proprioceptive biomimetic artificial muscles and an artificial tactile skin with unique sensitivity-toughness trade off. To this aim, novel materials and additive manufacturing techniques will be developed starting from our proprietary compositions and technologies. We will also have extraordinary access to tamed elephants in Africa, on which we will perform quantitative behavioural studies with sensorized objects and marker-less motion capture. Based on elephants’ behaviours, we will formulate original control strategies for tactile-driven soft grasping and manipulation in robotics. PROBOSCIS will result in technological breakthroughs, such as a new generation of robotic manipulators with unprecedented capabilities, that are deeply rooted in and enabled by new science in elephants’ biology, triggering successful assistive, industrial, domestic, rescue and environmental applications.

Call for proposal

H2020-FETOPEN-2018-2020

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Sub call

H2020-FETOPEN-2018-2019-2020-01

Coordinator

FONDAZIONE ISTITUTO ITALIANO DI TECNOLOGIA
Net EU contribution
€ 1 632 322,50
Address
VIA MOREGO 30
16163 Genova
Italy

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Region
Nord-Ovest Liguria Genova
Activity type
Research Organisations
Links
Total cost
€ 1 632 322,50

Participants (4)