Soft Robotics Workshop at ICRA 2023

Soft Robotics: Fusing function with structure

London, 23 May 2023

Soft Robotics Workshop at ICRA 2023

Soft Robotics: Fusing function with structure

London, 23 May 2023

The advent of soft material technologies in robotics has brought many distinct advantages, such as inherent compliance, safety, high manoeuvrability, and reconfigurability. Along with these advantages, the past years have seen many interesting applications for soft robots in areas such as surgical robotics, extreme environments, and logistics and material handling. Despite these rapid developments, many challenges that are key to the widespread adoption and efficient utilization of novel soft material technologies are still outstanding.

A major challenge that lies at the core of the field of soft robots is the fusion and integration of different functions with the soft robot body. The ability of different structures in a soft robot to seamlessly carry out different functions, for example, an actuator that is also a self-sensing element or the backbone of a robot body, will produce numerous advantages. Such a fusion is underpinned by many aspects, such as design methodologies, the development of multifunctional components, manufacturing techniques to cofabricate functional structures, sensing and perception of data, and morphological computation.

The main objective of this workshop is to serve as a focal point for discussing this grand challenge of “Fusing Function with Structure in Soft Robotics’’. The workshop will host talks, short presentations, an Early Career Researchers Showcase and a panel discussion and will involve soft robotics researchers specializing in the broad domains of soft actuation, sensing, functional materials, manufacturing, and physical intelligence.


Dr. Ka-Wai Kwok

University of Hong Kong

Dr. Helmut Hauser

University of Bristol

Dr. Jamie Paik

The École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

Prof. Arianna Menciassi

Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa (SSSA)

Dr. Zhu Jian

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)


Time Program
0830-1100 Session 1: Curated talks (Independent themes)
Talk 1 (35 min) Actuation theme (TBC)
Talk 2 (35 min) Ka Wai Kwok - Embedded and distributed Sensing
Talk 3 (35 min) Helmut Hauser - Embodied intelligence
Talk 4 (35 min) Energy theme (TBC)
11:00 – 12:00 Session 2: Lightning talks and Discussion(10 talks x 3 mins)
Participants will be sought through an open call for participation
Lunch Break
13:30 – 15:15 Session 3: Curated Talks (Integrated soft robots)
Talk 5 (35 mins) Jamie Paik - Modular Robots
Talk 6 (35 mins) Arianna Menciassi - Adaptive Robots
Talk 7 (35 mins) Zhu Jian - Untethered multimodal robots
15:30 – 17:45 Session 4: Early Career Researchers’ Showcase and Panel Discussion
ECR Talk 1 (30 min)
ECR Talk 2 (30 min)
ECR Talk 3 (30 min)
Panel Discussion
Panellists: Invited panellists + all ECR speakers
Day summary by the organizers and vote of thanks

We propose 4 different formats to have a unique mix of researchers and high participation in the workshop.

Session 1 and 3 will have curated talks related to specific themes within the workshop topic in order to stimulate focused discussion related to the workshop aims.

Session 2 will have short lightning talks. For the lightning talks, we will solicit participation from the community through a single call for participation. From the received submissions, the ones that fit best with the themes planned will be selected to be presented in the curated talks sessions 1 and 3. The other selected submissions will be presented in Session 2 (Lightning talks). Besides general call for participation that will be widely publicised, the organisers will reach out to directly by personal communication to researchers whose work will contribute to the dialogue to also submit to the general call for participation.

Session 4: Early Career Researchers showcase is a unique initiative we introduce in this workshop. As postdoc phase is challenging to navigate and reach independent positions, we focus this session to improve visibility for promising early career researchers (excluding those in full-time faculty positions). Senior PhD students and postdocs often have a significant body of work produced. Thematic presentations (as opposed to talk on a single publication) will be solicited from early career researchers not already in an independent academic position. The submissions will be evaluated for excellence in research, vision, and explanation of how their work contributes to the field. This is aimed at putting a spotlight on early career researchers’ contribution to significant developments, highlight their vision and provide impetus for their career progress.

The ECRs will also join the established researchers in the panel discussion. The panellists will be composed of the invited speakers and selected invitees from the conference attendees who will be expected to be present for the entirety of Session 4. The topic of panel discussion is on how to develop fully integrated functional soft robots - challenges and pathways. The topic of panel discussion is on how to develop fully integrated functional soft robots - challenges and pathways.A moderator will direct the discussion. A clear format will be established to channel the discussion towards tangible outcomes.

An example is as follows: The moderator will ask the speakers on integrated soft robots (session 3) to outline challenges for functional integration. Based on the outputs, questions related to specific aspects on sensing, actuation etc will be directed to thematic leads (session 1). ECRs will finally be asked to summarize their perception of the pathways towards solving the challenges.

The panel discussion will be followed by a summary of the day’s program by the organisers. The organisers will make notes throughout the workshop and present a summary of the state-of-progress and challenges in soft robotics integration. These insights will also be utilised in the dissemination of the workshop outputs (elaborated in dissemination plans section).


A booklet of the talks will be created and circulated prior to the workshop. For this, an abstract will be requested from all the speakers. With permission from the contributors, this will be archived on the workshop website and available for viewing for a certain duration of time. The link to the archived material will also be disseminated through robotics mailing lists. In accordance with ICRA 2023 plans and regulations, the video recordings may be made available on a dedicated Youtube channel.

We have also partnered with MDPI Robotics who have offered to publish open access several articles from this session free of charge.We will open this opportunity to all the participants of theworkshop and the organisers will compile a list of contributions and get approval from the journal for free Open access publication if accepted after peer review. This will encourage extending this work and also provide an option for dissemination of their work.


Dr. Hareesh Godaba, (Corresponding organizer)

Lecturer in Engineering, School of Engineering and Informatics, University of Sussex, UK.

Dr. Ahmad Ataka

Lecturer, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogjakarta, Indonesia.

Prof. Kaspar Althoefer

Professor and Director, Centre for Advanced Robotics@Queen Mary, Queen Mary University of London.