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2018


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Role of symmetry in driven propulsion at low Reynolds number

Sachs, J., Morozov, K. I., Kenneth, O., Qiu, T., Segreto, N., Fischer, P., Leshansky, A. M.

Phys. Rev. E, 98(6):063105, American Physical Society, December 2018 (article)

Abstract
We theoretically and experimentally investigate low-Reynolds-number propulsion of geometrically achiral planar objects that possess a dipole moment and that are driven by a rotating magnetic field. Symmetry considerations (involving parity, $\widehat{P}$, and charge conjugation, $\widehat{C}$) establish correspondence between propulsive states depending on orientation of the dipolar moment. Although basic symmetry arguments do not forbid individual symmetric objects to efficiently propel due to spontaneous symmetry breaking, they suggest that the average ensemble velocity vanishes. Some additional arguments show, however, that highly symmetrical ($\widehat{P}$-even) objects exhibit no net propulsion while individual less symmetrical ($\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-even) propellers do propel. Particular magnetization orientation, rendering the shape $\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-odd, yields unidirectional motion typically associated with chiral structures, such as helices. If instead of a structure with a permanent dipole we consider a polarizable object, some of the arguments have to be modified. For instance, we demonstrate a truly achiral ($\widehat{P}$- and $\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-even) planar shape with an induced electric dipole that can propel by electro-rotation. We thereby show that chirality is not essential for propulsion due to rotation-translation coupling at low Reynolds number.

pf

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl screenshot 2018 5 9 swimming back and forth using planar flagellar propulsion at low reynolds numbers   khalil   2018   adv ...
Swimming Back and Forth Using Planar Flagellar Propulsion at Low Reynolds Numbers

Khalil, I. S. M., Tabak, A. F., Hamed, Y., Mitwally, M. E., Tawakol, M., Klingner, A., Sitti, M.

Advanced Science, 5(2):1700461, 2018 (article)

Abstract
Abstract Peritrichously flagellated Escherichia coli swim back and forth by wrapping their flagella together in a helical bundle. However, other monotrichous bacteria cannot swim back and forth with a single flagellum and planar wave propagation. Quantifying this observation, a magnetically driven soft two‐tailed microrobot capable of reversing its swimming direction without making a U‐turn trajectory or actively modifying the direction of wave propagation is designed and developed. The microrobot contains magnetic microparticles within the polymer matrix of its head and consists of two collinear, unequal, and opposite ultrathin tails. It is driven and steered using a uniform magnetic field along the direction of motion with a sinusoidally varying orthogonal component. Distinct reversal frequencies that enable selective and independent excitation of the first or the second tail of the microrobot based on their tail length ratio are found. While the first tail provides a propulsive force below one of the reversal frequencies, the second is almost passive, and the net propulsive force achieves flagellated motion along one direction. On the other hand, the second tail achieves flagellated propulsion along the opposite direction above the reversal frequency.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Optical and Thermophoretic Control of Janus Nanopen Injection into Living Cells

Maier, C. M., Huergo, M. A., Milosevic, S., Pernpeintner, C., Li, M., Singh, D. P., Walker, D., Fischer, P., Feldmann, J., Lohmüller, T.

Nano Letters, 18, pages: 7935–7941, November 2018 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Devising strategies for the controlled injection of functional nanoparticles and reagents into living cells paves the way for novel applications in nanosurgery, sensing, and drug delivery. Here, we demonstrate the light-controlled guiding and injection of plasmonic Janus nanopens into living cells. The pens are made of a gold nanoparticle attached to a dielectric alumina shaft. Balancing optical and thermophoretic forces in an optical tweezer allows single Janus nanopens to be trapped and positioned on the surface of living cells. While the optical injection process involves strong heating of the plasmonic side, the temperature of the alumina stays significantly lower, thus allowing the functionalization with fluorescently labeled, single-stranded DNA and, hence, the spatially controlled injection of genetic material with an untethered nanocarrier.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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A swarm of slippery micropropellers penetrates the vitreous body of the eye

Wu, Z., Troll, J., Jeong, H. H., Wei, Q., Stang, M., Ziemssen, F., Wang, Z., Dong, M., Schnichels, S., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Science Advances, 4(11):eaat4388, November 2018 (article)

Abstract
The intravitreal delivery of therapeutic agents promises major benefits in the field of ocular medicine. Traditional delivery methods rely on the random, passive diffusion of molecules, which do not allow for the rapid delivery of a concentrated cargo to a defined region at the posterior pole of the eye. The use of particles promises targeted delivery but faces the challenge that most tissues including the vitreous have a tight macromolecular matrix that acts as a barrier and prevents its penetration. Here, we demonstrate novel intravitreal delivery microvehicles slippery micropropellers that can be actively propelled through the vitreous humor to reach the retina. The propulsion is achieved by helical magnetic micropropellers that have a liquid layer coating to minimize adhesion to the surrounding biopolymeric network. The submicrometer diameter of the propellers enables the penetration of the biopolymeric network and the propulsion through the porcine vitreous body of the eye over centimeter distances. Clinical optical coherence tomography is used to monitor the movement of the propellers and confirm their arrival on the retina near the optic disc. Overcoming the adhesion forces and actively navigating a swarm of micropropellers in the dense vitreous humor promise practical applications in ophthalmology.

pf

Video: Nanorobots propel through the eye link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Video: Nanorobots propel through the eye link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Reducing 3D Vibrations to 1D in Real Time

Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration (4 pages) presented at AsiaHaptics, Incheon, South Korea, November 2018 (misc)

Abstract
For simple and realistic vibrotactile feedback, 3D accelerations from real contact interactions are usually rendered using a single-axis vibration actuator; this dimensional reduction can be performed in many ways. This demonstration implements a real-time conversion system that simultaneously measures 3D accelerations and renders corresponding 1D vibrations using a two-pen interface. In the demonstration, a user freely interacts with various objects using an In-Pen that contains a 3-axis accelerometer. The captured accelerations are converted to a single-axis signal, and an Out-Pen renders the reduced signal for the user to feel. We prepared seven conversion methods from the simple use of a single-axis signal to applying principal component analysis (PCA) so that users can compare the performance of each conversion method in this demonstration.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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A Large-Scale Fabric-Based Tactile Sensor Using Electrical Resistance Tomography

Lee, H., Park, K., Kim, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration (3 pages) presented at AsiaHaptics, Incheon, South Korea, November 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Large-scale tactile sensing is important for household robots and human-robot interaction because contacts can occur all over a robot’s body surface. This paper presents a new fabric-based tactile sensor that is straightforward to manufacture and can cover a large area. The tactile sensor is made of conductive and non-conductive fabric layers, and the electrodes are stitched with conductive thread, so the resulting device is flexible and stretchable. The sensor utilizes internal array electrodes and a reconstruction method called electrical resistance tomography (ERT) to achieve a high spatial resolution with a small number of electrodes. The developed sensor shows that only 16 electrodes can accurately estimate single and multiple contacts over a square that measures 20 cm by 20 cm.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Universal Custom Complex Magnetic Spring Design Methodology

Woodward, M. A., Sitti, M.

IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, 54(1):1-13, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
A design methodology is presented for creating custom complex magnetic springs through the design of force-displacement curves. This methodology results in a magnet configuration, which will produce a desired force-displacement relationship. Initially, the problem is formulated and solved as a system of linear equations. Then, given the limited likelihood of a single solution being feasibly manufactured, key parameters of the solution are extracted and varied to create a family of solutions. Finally, these solutions are refined using numerical optimization. Given the properties of magnets, this methodology can create any well-defined function of force versus displacement and is model-independent. To demonstrate this flexibility, a number of example magnetic springs are designed; one of which, designed for use in a jumping-gliding robot's shape memory alloy actuated clutch, is manufactured and experimentally characterized. Due to the scaling of magnetic forces, the displacement region which these magnetic springs are most applicable is that of millimeters and below. However, this region is well situated for miniature robots and smart material actuators, where a tailored magnetic spring, designed to compliment a component, can enhance its performance while adding new functionality. The methodology is also expendable to variable interactions and multi-dimensional magnetic field design.

pi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Gait learning for soft microrobots controlled by light fields

Rohr, A. V., Trimpe, S., Marco, A., Fischer, P., Palagi, S.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2018, pages: 6199-6206, International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems 2018, October 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Soft microrobots based on photoresponsive materials and controlled by light fields can generate a variety of different gaits. This inherent flexibility can be exploited to maximize their locomotion performance in a given environment and used to adapt them to changing environments. However, because of the lack of accurate locomotion models, and given the intrinsic variability among microrobots, analytical control design is not possible. Common data-driven approaches, on the other hand, require running prohibitive numbers of experiments and lead to very sample-specific results. Here we propose a probabilistic learning approach for light-controlled soft microrobots based on Bayesian Optimization (BO) and Gaussian Processes (GPs). The proposed approach results in a learning scheme that is highly data-efficient, enabling gait optimization with a limited experimental budget, and robust against differences among microrobot samples. These features are obtained by designing the learning scheme through the comparison of different GP priors and BO settings on a semisynthetic data set. The developed learning scheme is validated in microrobot experiments, resulting in a 115% improvement in a microrobot’s locomotion performance with an experimental budget of only 20 tests. These encouraging results lead the way toward self-adaptive microrobotic systems based on lightcontrolled soft microrobots and probabilistic learning control.

ics pf

arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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A Value-Driven Eldercare Robot: Virtual and Physical Instantiations of a Case-Supported Principle-Based Behavior Paradigm

Anderson, M., Anderson, S., Berenz, V.

Proceedings of the IEEE, pages: 1,15, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, a case-supported principle-based behavior paradigm is proposed to help ensure ethical behavior of autonomous machines. We argue that ethically significant behavior of autonomous systems should be guided by explicit ethical principles determined through a consensus of ethicists. Such a consensus is likely to emerge in many areas in which autonomous systems are apt to be deployed and for the actions they are liable to undertake. We believe that this is the case since we are more likely to agree on how machines ought to treat us than on how human beings ought to treat one another. Given such a consensus, particular cases of ethical dilemmas where ethicists agree on the ethically relevant features and the right course of action can be used to help discover principles that balance these features when they are in conflict. Such principles not only help ensure ethical behavior of complex and dynamic systems but also can serve as a basis for justification of this behavior. The requirements, methods, implementation, and evaluation components of the paradigm are detailed as well as its instantiation in both a simulated and real robot functioning in the domain of eldercare.

am

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Nanoscale robotic agents in biological fluids and tissues

Palagi, S., Walker, D. Q. T., Fischer, P.

In The Encyclopedia of Medical Robotics, 2, pages: 19-42, 2, (Editors: Desai, J. P. and Ferreira, A.), World Scientific, October 2018 (inbook)

Abstract
Nanorobots are untethered structures of sub-micron size that can be controlled in a non-trivial way. Such nanoscale robotic agents are envisioned to revolutionize medicine by enabling minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. To be useful, nanorobots must be operated in complex biological fluids and tissues, which are often difficult to penetrate. In this chapter, we first discuss potential medical applications of motile nanorobots. We briefly present the challenges related to swimming at such small scales and we survey the rheological properties of some biological fluids and tissues. We then review recent experimental results in the development of nanorobots and in particular their design, fabrication, actuation, and propulsion in complex biological fluids and tissues. Recent work shows that their nanoscale dimension is a clear asset for operation in biological tissues, since many biological tissues consist of networks of macromolecules that prevent the passage of larger micron-scale structures, but contain dynamic pores through which nanorobots can move.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Softness, Warmth, and Responsiveness Improve Robot Hugs

Block, A. E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

International Journal of Social Robotics, 11(1):49-64, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
Hugs are one of the first forms of contact and affection humans experience. Due to their prevalence and health benefits, roboticists are naturally interested in having robots one day hug humans as seamlessly as humans hug other humans. This project's purpose is to evaluate human responses to different robot physical characteristics and hugging behaviors. Specifically, we aim to test the hypothesis that a soft, warm, touch-sensitive PR2 humanoid robot can provide humans with satisfying hugs by matching both their hugging pressure and their hugging duration. Thirty relatively young and rather technical participants experienced and evaluated twelve hugs with the robot, divided into three randomly ordered trials that focused on physical robot characteristics (single factor, three levels) and nine randomly ordered trials with low, medium, and high hug pressure and duration (two factors, three levels each). Analysis of the results showed that people significantly prefer soft, warm hugs over hard, cold hugs. Furthermore, users prefer hugs that physically squeeze them and release immediately when they are ready for the hug to end. Taking part in the experiment also significantly increased positive user opinions of robots and robot use.

hi

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Fast spatial scanning of 3D ultrasound fields via thermography

Melde, K., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Applied Physics Letters, 113(13):133503, September 2018 (article)

Abstract
We propose and demonstrate a thermographic method that allows rapid scanning of ultrasound fields in a volume to yield 3D maps of the sound intensity. A thin sound-absorbing membrane is continuously translated through a volume of interest while a thermal camera records the evolution of its surface temperature. The temperature rise is a function of the absorbed sound intensity, such that the thermal image sequence can be combined to reveal the sound intensity distribution in the traversed volume. We demonstrate the mapping of ultrasound fields, which is several orders of magnitude faster than scanning with a hydrophone. Our results are in very good agreement with theoretical simulations.

pf

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Playful: Reactive Programming for Orchestrating Robotic Behavior

Berenz, V., Schaal, S.

IEEE Robotics Automation Magazine, 25(3):49-60, September 2018 (article) In press

Abstract
For many service robots, reactivity to changes in their surroundings is a must. However, developing software suitable for dynamic environments is difficult. Existing robotic middleware allows engineers to design behavior graphs by organizing communication between components. But because these graphs are structurally inflexible, they hardly support the development of complex reactive behavior. To address this limitation, we propose Playful, a software platform that applies reactive programming to the specification of robotic behavior.

am

playful website playful_IEEE_RAM link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 09 19 at 09.33.59
ClusterNet: Instance Segmentation in RGB-D Images

Shao, L., Tian, Y., Bohg, J.

arXiv, September 2018, Submitted to ICRA'19 (article) Submitted

Abstract
We propose a method for instance-level segmentation that uses RGB-D data as input and provides detailed information about the location, geometry and number of {\em individual\/} objects in the scene. This level of understanding is fundamental for autonomous robots. It enables safe and robust decision-making under the large uncertainty of the real-world. In our model, we propose to use the first and second order moments of the object occupancy function to represent an object instance. We train an hourglass Deep Neural Network (DNN) where each pixel in the output votes for the 3D position of the corresponding object center and for the object's size and pose. The final instance segmentation is achieved through clustering in the space of moments. The object-centric training loss is defined on the output of the clustering. Our method outperforms the state-of-the-art instance segmentation method on our synthesized dataset. We show that our method generalizes well on real-world data achieving visually better segmentation results.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

arXiv, September 2018, Submitted to ICRA'19 (article) Submitted

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

am mg

video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Diffusion Measurements of Swimming Enzymes with Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy

Günther, J., Börsch, M., Fischer, P.

Accounts of Chemical Research, 51(9):1911-1920, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Self-propelled chemical motors are chemically powered micro- or nanosized swimmers. The energy required for these motors’ active motion derives from catalytic chemical reactions and the transformation of a fuel dissolved in the solution. While self-propulsion is now well established for larger particles, it is still unclear if enzymes, nature’s nanometer-sized catalysts, are potentially also self-powered nanomotors. Because of its small size, any increase in an enzyme’s diffusion due to active self-propulsion must be observed on top of the enzyme’s passive Brownian motion, which dominates at this scale. Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) is a sensitive method to quantify the diffusion properties of single fluorescently labeled molecules in solution. FCS experiments have shown a general increase in the diffusion constant of a number of enzymes when the enzyme is catalytically active. Diffusion enhancements after addition of the enzyme’s substrate (and sometimes its inhibitor) of up to 80\% have been reported, which is at least 1 order of magnitude higher than what theory would predict. However, many factors contribute to the FCS signal and in particular the shape of the autocorrelation function, which underlies diffusion measurements by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. These effects need to be considered to establish if and by how much the catalytic activity changes an enzyme’s diffusion.We carefully review phenomena that can play a role in FCS experiments and the determination of enzyme diffusion, including the dissociation of enzyme oligomers upon interaction with the substrate, surface binding of the enzyme to glass during the experiment, conformational changes upon binding, and quenching of the fluorophore. We show that these effects can cause changes in the FCS signal that behave similar to an increase in diffusion. However, in the case of the enzymes F1-ATPase and alkaline phosphatase, we demonstrate that there is no measurable increase in enzyme diffusion. Rather, dissociation and conformational changes account for the changes in the FCS signal in the former and fluorophore quenching in the latter. Within the experimental accuracy of our FCS measurements, we do not observe any change in diffusion due to activity for the enzymes we have investigated.We suggest useful control experiments and additional tests for future FCS experiments that should help establish if the observed diffusion enhancement is real or if it is due to an experimental or data analysis artifact. We show that fluorescence lifetime and mean intensity measurements are essential in order to identify the nature of the observed changes in the autocorrelation function. While it is clear from theory that chemically active enzymes should also act as self-propelled nanomotors, our FCS measurements show that the associated increase in diffusion is much smaller than previously reported. Further experiments are needed to quantify the contribution of the enzymes’ catalytic activity to their self-propulsion. We hope that our findings help to establish a useful protocol for future FCS studies in this field and help establish by how much the diffusion of an enzyme is enhanced through catalytic activity.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Uphill production of dihydrogen by enzymatic oxidation of glucose without an external energy source

Suraniti, E., Merzeau, P., Roche, J., Gounel, S., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P., Mano, N., Kuhn, A.

Nature Communications, 9(1):3229, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Chemical systems do not allow the coupling of energy from several simple reactions to drive a subsequent reaction, which takes place in the same medium and leads to a product with a higher energy than the one released during the first reaction. Gibbs energy considerations thus are not favorable to drive e.g., water splitting by the direct oxidation of glucose as a model reaction. Here, we show that it is nevertheless possible to carry out such an energetically uphill reaction, if the electrons released in the oxidation reaction are temporarily stored in an electromagnetic system, which is then used to raise the electrons' potential energy so that they can power the electrolysis of water in a second step. We thereby demonstrate the general concept that lower energy delivering chemical reactions can be used to enable the formation of higher energy consuming reaction products in a closed system.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Chemical micromotors self-assemble and self-propel by spontaneous symmetry breaking

Yu, T., Chuphal, P., Thakur, S., Reigh, S. Y., Singh, D. P., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 54, pages: 11933-11936, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Self-propelling chemical motors have thus far required the fabrication of Janus particles with an asymmetric catalyst distribution. Here, we demonstrate that simple, isotropic colloids can spontaneously assemble to yield dimer motors that self-propel. In a mixture of isotropic titanium dioxide colloids with photo-chemical catalytic activity and passive silica colloids, light illumination causes diffusiophoretic attractions between the active and passive particles and leads to the formation of dimers. The dimers constitute a symmetry-broken motor, whose dynamics can be fully controlled by the illumination conditions. Computer simulations reproduce the dynamics of the colloids and are in good agreement with experiments. The current work presents a simple route to obtain large numbers of self-propelling chemical motors from a dispersion of spherically symmetric colloids through spontaneous symmetry breaking.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Statistical Modelling of Fingertip Deformations and Contact Forces during Tactile Interaction

Gueorguiev, D., Tzionas, D., Pacchierotti, C., Black, M. J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Extended abstract presented at the Hand, Brain and Technology conference (HBT), Ascona, Switzerland, August 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Little is known about the shape and properties of the human finger during haptic interaction, even though these are essential parameters for controlling wearable finger devices and deliver realistic tactile feedback. This study explores a framework for four-dimensional scanning (3D over time) and modelling of finger-surface interactions, aiming to capture the motion and deformations of the entire finger with high resolution while simultaneously recording the interfacial forces at the contact. Preliminary results show that when the fingertip is actively pressing a rigid surface, it undergoes lateral expansion and proximal/distal bending, deformations that cannot be captured by imaging of the contact area alone. Therefore, we are currently capturing a dataset that will enable us to create a statistical model of the finger’s deformations and predict the contact forces induced by tactile interaction with objects. This technique could improve current methods for tactile rendering in wearable haptic devices, which rely on general physical modelling of the skin’s compliance, by developing an accurate model of the variations in finger properties across the human population. The availability of such a model will also enable a more realistic simulation of virtual finger behaviour in virtual reality (VR) environments, as well as the ability to accurately model a specific user’s finger from lower resolution data. It may also be relevant for inferring the physical properties of the underlying tissue from observing the surface mesh deformations, as previously shown for body tissues.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Instrumentation, Data, and Algorithms for Visually Understanding Haptic Surface Properties

Burka, A. L.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, August 2018, Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering (phdthesis)

Abstract
Autonomous robots need to efficiently walk over varied surfaces and grasp diverse objects. We hypothesize that the association between how such surfaces look and how they physically feel during contact can be learned from a database of matched haptic and visual data recorded from various end-effectors' interactions with hundreds of real-world surfaces. Testing this hypothesis required the creation of a new multimodal sensing apparatus, the collection of a large multimodal dataset, and development of a machine-learning pipeline. This thesis begins by describing the design and construction of the Portable Robotic Optical/Tactile ObservatioN PACKage (PROTONPACK, or Proton for short), an untethered handheld sensing device that emulates the capabilities of the human senses of vision and touch. Its sensory modalities include RGBD vision, egomotion, contact force, and contact vibration. Three interchangeable end-effectors (a steel tooling ball, an OptoForce three-axis force sensor, and a SynTouch BioTac artificial fingertip) allow for different material properties at the contact point and provide additional tactile data. We then detail the calibration process for the motion and force sensing systems, as well as several proof-of-concept surface discrimination experiments that demonstrate the reliability of the device and the utility of the data it collects. This thesis then presents a large-scale dataset of multimodal surface interaction recordings, including 357 unique surfaces such as furniture, fabrics, outdoor fixtures, and items from several private and public material sample collections. Each surface was touched with one, two, or three end-effectors, comprising approximately one minute per end-effector of tapping and dragging at various forces and speeds. We hope that the larger community of robotics researchers will find broad applications for the published dataset. Lastly, we demonstrate an algorithm that learns to estimate haptic surface properties given visual input. Surfaces were rated on hardness, roughness, stickiness, and temperature by the human experimenter and by a pool of purely visual observers. Then we trained an algorithm to perform the same task as well as infer quantitative properties calculated from the haptic data. Overall, the task of predicting haptic properties from vision alone proved difficult for both humans and computers, but a hybrid algorithm using a deep neural network and a support vector machine achieved a correlation between expected and actual regression output between approximately ρ = 0.3 and ρ = 0.5 on previously unseen surfaces.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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A machine from machines

Fischer, P.

Nature Physics, 14, pages: 1072–1073, July 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Building spinning microrotors that self-assemble and synchronize to form a gear sounds like an impossible feat. However, it has now been achieved using only a single type of building block -- a colloid that self-propels.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Chemotaxis of Active Janus Nanoparticles

Popescu, M. N., Uspal, W. E., Bechinger, C., Fischer, P.

Nano Letters, 18(9):5345–5349, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
While colloids and molecules in solution exhibit passive Brownian motion, particles that are partially covered with a catalyst, which promotes the transformation of a fuel dissolved in the solution, can actively move. These active Janus particles are known as “chemical nanomotors” or self-propelling “swimmers” and have been realized with a range of catalysts, sizes, and particle geometries. Because their active translation depends on the fuel concentration, one expects that active colloidal particles should also be able to swim toward a fuel source. Synthesizing and engineering nanoparticles with distinct chemotactic properties may enable important developments, such as particles that can autonomously swim along a pH gradient toward a tumor. Chemotaxis requires that the particles possess an active coupling of their orientation to a chemical gradient. In this Perspective we provide a simple, intuitive description of the underlying mechanisms for chemotaxis, as well as the means to analyze and classify active particles that can show positive or negative chemotaxis. The classification provides guidance for engineering a specific response and is a useful organizing framework for the quantitative analysis and modeling of chemotactic behaviors. Chemotaxis is emerging as an important focus area in the field of active colloids and promises a number of fascinating applications for nanoparticles and particle-based delivery.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Programmable collective behavior in dynamically self-assembled mobile microrobotic swarms

B Yigit, , Y Alapan, , Sitti, M.

Advanced Science, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Collective control of mobile microrobotic swarms is indispensable for their potential high-impact applications in targeted drug delivery, medical diagnostics, parallel micromanipulation, and environmental sensing and remediation. Lack of on-board computational and sensing capabilities in current microrobotic systems necessitates use of physical interactions among individual microrobots for local physical communication and cooperation. Here, we show that mobile microrobotic swarms with well-defined collective behavior can be designed by engineering magnetic interactions among individual units. Microrobots, consisting of a linear chain of self-assembled magnetic microparticles, locomote on surfaces in response to a precessing magnetic field. Control over the direction of precessing magnetic field allows engineering attractive and repulsive interactions among microrobots and, thus, collective order with well-defined spatial organization and parallel operation over macroscale distances (~ 1 cm). These microrobotic swarms can be guided through confined spaces, while preserving microrobot morphology and function. These swarms can further achieve directional transport of large cargoes on surfaces and small cargoes in bulk fluids. Described design approach, exploiting physical interactions among individual robots, enables facile and rapid formation of self-organized and reconfigurable microrobotic swarms with programmable collective order.

pi

link (url) [BibTex]


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3D-Printed Biodegradable Microswimmer for Drug Delivery and Targeted Cell Labeling

Hakan Ceylan, , I. Ceren Yasa, , Oncay Yasa, , Ahmet Fatih Tabak, , Joshua Giltinan, , Sitti, M.

bioRxiv, pages: 379024, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Miniaturization of interventional medical devices can leverage minimally invasive technologies by enabling operational resolution at cellular length scales with high precision and repeatability. Untethered micron-scale mobile robots can realize this by navigating and performing in hard-to-reach, confined and delicate inner body sites. However, such a complex task requires an integrated design and engineering strategy, where powering, control, environmental sensing, medical functionality and biodegradability need to be considered altogether. The present study reports a hydrogel-based, biodegradable microrobotic swimmer, which is responsive to the changes in its microenvironment for theranostic cargo delivery and release tasks. We design a double-helical magnetic microswimmer of 20 micrometers length, which is 3D-printed with complex geometrical and compositional features. At normal physiological concentrations, matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) enzyme can entirely degrade the microswimmer body in 118 h to solubilized non-toxic products. The microswimmer can respond to the pathological concentrations of MMP-2 by swelling and thereby accelerating the release kinetics of the drug payload. Anti-ErbB 2 antibody-tagged magnetic nanoparticles released from the degraded microswimmers serve for targeted labeling of SKBR3 breast cancer cells to realize the potential of medical imaging of local tissue sites following the therapeutic intervention. These results represent a leap forward toward clinical medical microrobots that are capable of sensing, responding to the local pathological information, and performing specific therapeutic and diagnostic tasks as orderly executed operations using their smart composite material architectures.

pi

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Robust Visual Augmented Reality in Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P.

Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy, July 2018, Department of Electronic, Information, and Biomedical Engineering (mastersthesis)

Abstract
The broader research objective of this line of research is to test the hypothesis that real-time stereo video analysis and augmented reality can increase safety and task efficiency in robot-assisted surgery. This master’s thesis aims to solve the first step needed to achieve this goal: the creation of a robust system that delivers the envisioned feedback to a surgeon while he or she controls a surgical robot that is identical to those used on human patients. Several approaches for applying augmented reality to da Vinci Surgical Systems have been proposed, but none of them entirely rely on a clinical robot; specifically, they require additional sensors, depend on access to the da Vinci API, are designed for a very specific task, or were tested on systems that are starkly different from those in clinical use. There has also been prior work that presents the real-world camera view and the computer graphics on separate screens, or not in real time. In other scenarios, the digital information is overlaid manually by the surgeons themselves or by computer scientists, rather than being generated automatically in response to the surgeon’s actions. We attempted to overcome the aforementioned constraints by acquiring input signals from the da Vinci stereo endoscope and providing augmented reality to the console in real time (less than 150 ms delay, including the 62 ms of inherent latency of the da Vinci). The potential benefits of the resulting system are broad because it was built to be general, rather than customized for any specific task. The entire platform is compatible with any generation of the da Vinci System and does not require a dVRK (da Vinci Research Kit) or access to the API. Thus, it can be applied to existing da Vinci Systems in operating rooms around the world.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Task-Driven PCA-Based Design Optimization of Wearable Cutaneous Devices

Pacchierotti, C., Young, E. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):2214-2221, July 2018, Presented at ICRA 2018 (article)

Abstract
Small size and low weight are critical requirements for wearable and portable haptic interfaces, making it essential to work toward the optimization of their sensing and actuation systems. This paper presents a new approach for task-driven design optimization of fingertip cutaneous haptic devices. Given one (or more) target tactile interactions to render and a cutaneous device to optimize, we evaluate the minimum number and best configuration of the device’s actuators to minimize the estimated haptic rendering error. First, we calculate the motion needed for the original cutaneous device to render the considered target interaction. Then, we run a principal component analysis (PCA) to search for possible couplings between the original motor inputs, looking also for the best way to reconfigure them. If some couplings exist, we can re-design our cutaneous device with fewer motors, optimally configured to render the target tactile sensation. The proposed approach is quite general and can be applied to different tactile sensors and cutaneous devices. We validated it using a BioTac tactile sensor and custom plate-based 3-DoF and 6-DoF fingertip cutaneous devices, considering six representative target tactile interactions. The algorithm was able to find couplings between each device’s motor inputs, proving it to be a viable approach to optimize the design of wearable and portable cutaneous devices. Finally, we present two examples of optimized designs for our 3-DoF fingertip cutaneous device.

hi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robust Physics-based Motion Retargeting with Realistic Body Shapes

Borno, M. A., Righetti, L., Black, M. J., Delp, S. L., Fiume, E., Romero, J.

Computer Graphics Forum, 37, pages: 6:1-12, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Motion capture is often retargeted to new, and sometimes drastically different, characters. When the characters take on realistic human shapes, however, we become more sensitive to the motion looking right. This means adapting it to be consistent with the physical constraints imposed by different body shapes. We show how to take realistic 3D human shapes, approximate them using a simplified representation, and animate them so that they move realistically using physically-based retargeting. We develop a novel spacetime optimization approach that learns and robustly adapts physical controllers to new bodies and constraints. The approach automatically adapts the motion of the mocap subject to the body shape of a target subject. This motion respects the physical properties of the new body and every body shape results in a different and appropriate movement. This makes it easy to create a varied set of motions from a single mocap sequence by simply varying the characters. In an interactive environment, successful retargeting requires adapting the motion to unexpected external forces. We achieve robustness to such forces using a novel LQR-tree formulation. We show that the simulated motions look appropriate to each character’s anatomy and their actions are robust to perturbations.

mg ps

pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Recurrent State-Space Models

Doerr, A., Daniel, C., Schiegg, M., Nguyen-Tuong, D., Schaal, S., Toussaint, M., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), July 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
State-space models (SSMs) are a highly expressive model class for learning patterns in time series data and for system identification. Deterministic versions of SSMs (e.g., LSTMs) proved extremely successful in modeling complex time-series data. Fully probabilistic SSMs, however, unfortunately often prove hard to train, even for smaller problems. To overcome this limitation, we propose a scalable initialization and training algorithm based on doubly stochastic variational inference and Gaussian processes. In the variational approximation we propose in contrast to related approaches to fully capture the latent state temporal correlations to allow for robust training.

am ics

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Teaching a Robot Bimanual Hand-Clapping Games via Wrist-Worn IMUs

Fitter, N. T., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, 5(85), July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Colleagues often shake hands in greeting, friends connect through high fives, and children around the world rejoice in hand-clapping games. As robots become more common in everyday human life, they will have the opportunity to join in these social-physical interactions, but few current robots are intended to touch people in friendly ways. This article describes how we enabled a Baxter Research Robot to both teach and learn bimanual hand-clapping games with a human partner. Our system monitors the user's motions via a pair of inertial measurement units (IMUs) worn on the wrists. We recorded a labeled library of 10 common hand-clapping movements from 10 participants; this dataset was used to train an SVM classifier to automatically identify hand-clapping motions from previously unseen participants with a test-set classification accuracy of 97.0%. Baxter uses these sensors and this classifier to quickly identify the motions of its human gameplay partner, so that it can join in hand-clapping games. This system was evaluated by N = 24 naïve users in an experiment that involved learning sequences of eight motions from Baxter, teaching Baxter eight-motion game patterns, and completing a free interaction period. The motion classification accuracy in this less structured setting was 85.9%, primarily due to unexpected variations in motion timing. The quantitative task performance results and qualitative participant survey responses showed that learning games from Baxter was significantly easier than teaching games to Baxter, and that the teaching role caused users to consider more teamwork aspects of the gameplay. Over the course of the experiment, people felt more understood by Baxter and became more willing to follow the example of the robot. Users felt uniformly safe interacting with Baxter, and they expressed positive opinions of Baxter and reported fun interacting with the robot. Taken together, the results indicate that this robot achieved credible social-physical interaction with humans and that its ability to both lead and follow systematically changed the human partner's experience.

hi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Real-time Perception meets Reactive Motion Generation

(Best Systems Paper Finalists - Amazon Robotics Best Paper Awards in Manipulation)

Kappler, D., Meier, F., Issac, J., Mainprice, J., Garcia Cifuentes, C., Wüthrich, M., Berenz, V., Schaal, S., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):1864-1871, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
We address the challenging problem of robotic grasping and manipulation in the presence of uncertainty. This uncertainty is due to noisy sensing, inaccurate models and hard-to-predict environment dynamics. Our approach emphasizes the importance of continuous, real-time perception and its tight integration with reactive motion generation methods. We present a fully integrated system where real-time object and robot tracking as well as ambient world modeling provides the necessary input to feedback controllers and continuous motion optimizers. Specifically, they provide attractive and repulsive potentials based on which the controllers and motion optimizer can online compute movement policies at different time intervals. We extensively evaluate the proposed system on a real robotic platform in four scenarios that exhibit either challenging workspace geometry or a dynamic environment. We compare the proposed integrated system with a more traditional sense-plan-act approach that is still widely used. In 333 experiments, we show the robustness and accuracy of the proposed system.

am

arxiv video video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 06 29 at 4.24.39 pm
Innate turning preference of leaf-cutting ants in the absence of external orientation cues

Endlein, T., Sitti, M.

Journal of Experimental Biology, The Company of Biologists Ltd, June 2018 (article)

Abstract
Many ants use a combination of cues for orientation but how do ants find their way when all external cues are suppressed? Do they walk in a random way or are their movements spatially oriented? Here we show for the first time that leaf-cutting ants (Acromyrmex lundii) have an innate preference of turning counter-clockwise (left) when external cues are precluded. We demonstrated this by allowing individual ants to run freely on the water surface of a newly-developed treadmill. The surface tension supported medium-sized workers but effectively prevented ants from reaching the wall of the vessel, important to avoid wall-following behaviour (thigmotaxis). Most ants ran for minutes on the spot but also slowly turned counter-clockwise in the absence of visual cues. Reconstructing the effectively walked path revealed a looping pattern which could be interpreted as a search strategy. A similar turning bias was shown for groups of ants in a symmetrical Y-maze where twice as many ants chose the left branch in the absence of optical cues. Wall-following behaviour was tested by inserting a coiled tube before the Y-fork. When ants traversed a left-coiled tube, more ants chose the left box and vice versa. Adding visual cues in form of vertical black strips either outside the treadmill or on one branch of the Y-maze led to oriented walks towards the strips. It is suggested that both, the turning bias and the wall-following are employed as search strategies for an unknown environment which can be overridden by visual cues.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Motility and chemotaxis of bacteria-driven microswimmers fabricated using antigen 43-mediated biotin display

Schauer, O., Mostaghaci, B., Colin, R., Hürtgen, D., Kraus, D., Sitti, M., Sourjik, V.

Scientific Reports, 8(1):9801, Nature Publishing Group, June 2018 (article)

Abstract
Bacteria-driven biohybrid microswimmers (bacteriabots) combine synthetic cargo with motile living bacteria that enable propulsion and steering. Although fabrication and potential use of such bacteriabots have attracted much attention, existing methods of fabrication require an extensive sample preparation that can drastically decrease the viability and motility of bacteria. Moreover, chemotactic behavior of bacteriabots in a liquid medium with chemical gradients has remained largely unclear. To overcome these shortcomings, we designed Escherichia coli to autonomously display biotin on its cell surface via the engineered autotransporter antigen 43 and thus to bind streptavidin-coated cargo. We show that the cargo attachment to these bacteria is greatly enhanced by motility and occurs predominantly at the cell poles, which is greatly beneficial for the fabrication of motile bacteriabots. We further performed a systemic study to understand and optimize the ability of these bacteriabots to follow chemical gradients. We demonstrate that the chemotaxis of bacteriabots is primarily limited by the cargo-dependent reduction of swimming speed and show that the fabrication of bacteriabots using elongated E. coli cells can be used to overcome this limitation.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Multifunctional ferrofluid-infused surfaces with reconfigurable multiscale topography

Wang, W., Timonen, J. V. I., Carlson, A., Drotlef, D., Zhang, C. T., Kolle, S., Grinthal, A., Wong, T., Hatton, B., Kang, S. H., Kennedy, S., Chi, J., Blough, R. T., Sitti, M., Mahadevan, L., Aizenberg, J.

Nature, June 2018 (article)

Abstract
Developing adaptive materials with geometries that change in response to external stimuli provides fundamental insights into the links between the physical forces involved and the resultant morphologies and creates a foundation for technologically relevant dynamic systems1,2. In particular, reconfigurable surface topography as a means to control interfacial properties 3 has recently been explored using responsive gels 4 , shape-memory polymers 5 , liquid crystals6-8 and hybrid composites9-14, including magnetically active slippery surfaces12-14. However, these designs exhibit a limited range of topographical changes and thus a restricted scope of function. Here we introduce a hierarchical magneto-responsive composite surface, made by infiltrating a ferrofluid into a microstructured matrix (termed ferrofluid-containing liquid-infused porous surfaces, or FLIPS). We demonstrate various topographical reconfigurations at multiple length scales and a broad range of associated emergent behaviours. An applied magnetic-field gradient induces the movement of magnetic nanoparticles suspended in the ferrofluid, which leads to microscale flow of the ferrofluid first above and then within the microstructured surface. This redistribution changes the initially smooth surface of the ferrofluid (which is immobilized by the porous matrix through capillary forces) into various multiscale hierarchical topographies shaped by the size, arrangement and orientation of the confining microstructures in the magnetic field. We analyse the spatial and temporal dynamics of these reconfigurations theoretically and experimentally as a function of the balance between capillary and magnetic pressures15-19 and of the geometric anisotropy of the FLIPS system. Several interesting functions at three different length scales are demonstrated: self-assembly of colloidal particles at the micrometre scale; regulated flow of liquid droplets at the millimetre scale; and switchable adhesion and friction, liquid pumping and removal of biofilms at the centimetre scale. We envision that FLIPS could be used as part of integrated control systems for the manipulation and transport of matter, thermal management, microfluidics and fouling-release materials.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Colloidal Chemical Nanomotors

Alarcon-Correa, M.

Colloidal Chemical Nanomotors, pages: 150, Cuvillier Verlag, MPI-IS , June 2018 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Synthetic sophisticated nanostructures represent a fundamental building block for the development of nanotechnology. The fabrication of nanoparticles complex in structure and material composition is key to build nanomachines that can operate as man-made nanoscale motors, which autonomously convert external energy into motion. To achieve this, asymmetric nanoparticles were fabricated combining a physical vapor deposition technique known as NanoGLAD and wet chemical synthesis. This thesis primarily concerns three complex colloidal systems that have been developed: i)Hollow nanocup inclusion complexes that have a single Au nanoparticle in their pocket. The Au particle can be released with an external trigger. ii)The smallest self-propelling nanocolloids that have been made to date, which give rise to a local concentration gradient that causes enhanced diffusion of the particles. iii)Enzyme-powered pumps that have been assembled using bacteriophages as biological nanoscaffolds. This construct also can be used for enzyme recovery after heterogeneous catalysis.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Reducing 3D Vibrations to 1D in Real Time

Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Hands-on demonstration presented at EuroHaptics, Pisa, Italy, June 2018 (misc)

Abstract
In this demonstration, you will hold two pen-shaped modules: an in-pen and an out-pen. The in-pen is instrumented with a high-bandwidth three-axis accelerometer, and the out-pen contains a one-axis voice coil actuator. Use the in-pen to interact with different surfaces; the measured 3D accelerations are continually converted into 1D vibrations and rendered with the out-pen for you to feel. You can test conversion methods that range from simply selecting a single axis to applying a discrete Fourier transform or principal component analysis for realistic and brisk real-time conversion.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Haptipedia: Exploring Haptic Device Design Through Interactive Visualizations

Seifi, H., Fazlollahi, F., Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J., MacLean, K. E.

Hands-on demonstration presented at EuroHaptics, Pisa, Italy, June 2018 (misc)

Abstract
How many haptic devices have been proposed in the last 30 years? How can we leverage this rich source of design knowledge to inspire future innovations? Our goal is to make historical haptic invention accessible through interactive visualization of a comprehensive library – a Haptipedia – of devices that have been annotated with designer-relevant metadata. In this demonstration, participants can explore Haptipedia’s growing library of grounded force feedback devices through several prototype visualizations, interact with 3D simulations of the device mechanisms and movements, and tell us about the attributes and devices that could make Haptipedia a useful resource for the haptic design community.

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Delivering 6-DOF Fingertip Tactile Cues

Young, E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (5 pages) presented at EuroHaptics, Pisa, Italy, June 2018 (misc)

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Designing a Haptic Empathetic Robot Animal for Children with Autism

Burns, R., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (4 pages) presented at the Robotics: Science and Systems Workshop on Robot-Mediated Autism Intervention: Hardware, Software and Curriculum, Pittsburgh, USA, June 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Children with autism often endure sensory overload, may be nonverbal, and have difficulty understanding and relaying emotions. These experiences result in heightened stress during social interaction. Animal-assisted intervention has been found to improve the behavior of children with autism during social interaction, but live animal companions are not always feasible. We are thus in the process of designing a robotic animal to mimic some successful characteristics of animal-assisted intervention while trying to improve on others. The over-arching hypothesis of this research is that an appropriately designed robot animal can reduce stress in children with autism and empower them to engage in social interaction.

hi

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Soft Multi-Axis Boundary-Electrode Tactile Sensors for Whole-Body Robotic Skin

Lee, H., Kim, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (2 pages) presented at the RSS Pioneers Workshop, Pittsburgh, USA, June 2018 (misc)

hi

Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Self-Sensing Paper Actuators Based on Graphite–Carbon Nanotube Hybrid Films

Amjadi, M., Sitti, M.

Advanced Science, pages: 1800239, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
Abstract Soft actuators have demonstrated potential in a range of applications, including soft robotics, artificial muscles, and biomimetic devices. However, the majority of current soft actuators suffer from the lack of real-time sensory feedback, prohibiting their effective sensing and multitask function. Here, a promising strategy is reported to design bilayer electrothermal actuators capable of simultaneous actuation and sensation (i.e., self-sensing actuators), merely through two input electric terminals. Decoupled electrothermal stimulation and strain sensation is achieved by the optimal combination of graphite microparticles and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in the form of hybrid films. By finely tuning the charge transport properties of hybrid films, the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of self-sensing actuators is remarkably enhanced to over 66. As a result, self-sensing actuators can actively track their displacement and distinguish the touch of soft and hard objects.

pi

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Bioinspired microrobots

Palagi, S., Fischer, P.

Nature Reviews Materials, 3, pages: 113–124, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
Microorganisms can move in complex media, respond to the environment and self-organize. The field of microrobotics strives to achieve these functions in mobile robotic systems of sub-millimetre size. However, miniaturization of traditional robots and their control systems to the microscale is not a viable approach. A promising alternative strategy in developing microrobots is to implement sensing, actuation and control directly in the materials, thereby mimicking biological matter. In this Review, we discuss design principles and materials for the implementation of robotic functionalities in microrobots. We examine different biological locomotion strategies, and we discuss how they can be artificially recreated in magnetic microrobots and how soft materials improve control and performance. We show that smart, stimuli-responsive materials can act as on-board sensors and actuators and that ‘active matter’ enables autonomous motion, navigation and collective behaviours. Finally, we provide a critical outlook for the field of microrobotics and highlight the challenges that need to be overcome to realize sophisticated microrobots, which one day might rival biological machines.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Soft Miniaturized Linear Actuators Wirelessly Powered by Rotating Permanent Magnets

Qiu, T., Palagi, S., Sachs, J., Fischer, P.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3595-3600, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Wireless actuation by magnetic fields allows for the operation of untethered miniaturized devices, e.g. in biomedical applications. Nevertheless, generating large controlled forces over relatively large distances is challenging. Magnetic torques are easier to generate and control, but they are not always suitable for the tasks at hand. Moreover, strong magnetic fields are required to generate a sufficient torque, which are difficult to achieve with electromagnets. Here, we demonstrate a soft miniaturized actuator that transforms an externally applied magnetic torque into a controlled linear force. We report the design, fabrication and characterization of both the actuator and the magnetic field generator. We show that the magnet assembly, which is based on a set of rotating permanent magnets, can generate strong controlled oscillating fields over a relatively large workspace. The actuator, which is 3D-printed, can lift a load of more than 40 times its weight. Finally, we show that the actuator can be further miniaturized, paving the way towards strong, wirelessly powered microactuators.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Haptics and Haptic Interfaces

Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Encyclopedia of Robotics, (Editors: Marcelo H. Ang and Oussama Khatib and Bruno Siciliano), Springer, May 2018 (incollection)

Abstract
Haptics is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to both understand and engineer touch-based interaction. Although a wide range of systems and applications are being investigated, haptics researchers often concentrate on perception and manipulation through the human hand. A haptic interface is a mechatronic system that modulates the physical interaction between a human and his or her tangible surroundings. Haptic interfaces typically involve mechanical, electrical, and computational layers that work together to sense user motions or forces, quickly process these inputs with other information, and physically respond by actuating elements of the user’s surroundings, thereby enabling him or her to act on and feel a remote and/or virtual environment.

hi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Online Learning of a Memory for Learning Rates

(nominated for best paper award)

Meier, F., Kappler, D., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018, accepted (inproceedings)

Abstract
The promise of learning to learn for robotics rests on the hope that by extracting some information about the learning process itself we can speed up subsequent similar learning tasks. Here, we introduce a computationally efficient online meta-learning algorithm that builds and optimizes a memory model of the optimal learning rate landscape from previously observed gradient behaviors. While performing task specific optimization, this memory of learning rates predicts how to scale currently observed gradients. After applying the gradient scaling our meta-learner updates its internal memory based on the observed effect its prediction had. Our meta-learner can be combined with any gradient-based optimizer, learns on the fly and can be transferred to new optimization tasks. In our evaluations we show that our meta-learning algorithm speeds up learning of MNIST classification and a variety of learning control tasks, either in batch or online learning settings.

am

pdf video code [BibTex]

pdf video code [BibTex]


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Learning Sensor Feedback Models from Demonstrations via Phase-Modulated Neural Networks

Sutanto, G., Su, Z., Schaal, S., Meier, F.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018 (inproceedings)

am

pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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Graphene-silver hybrid devices for sensitive photodetection in the ultraviolet

Paria, D., Jeong, H. H., Vadakkumbatt, V., Deshpande, P., Fischer, P., Ghosh, A., Ghosh, A.

Nanoscale, 10, pages: 7685-7693, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
The weak light-matter interaction in graphene can be enhanced with a number of strategies, among which sensitization with plasmonic nanostructures is particularly attractive. This has resulted in the development of graphene-plasmonic hybrid systems with strongly enhanced photodetection efficiencies in the visible and the IR, but none in the UV. Here, we describe a silver nanoparticle-graphene stacked optoelectronic device that shows strong enhancement of its photoresponse across the entire UV spectrum. The device fabrication strategy is scalable and modular. Self-assembly techniques are combined with physical shadow growth techniques to fabricate a regular large-area array of 50 nm silver nanoparticles onto which CVD graphene is transferred. The presence of the silver nanoparticles resulted in a plasmonically enhanced photoresponse as high as 3.2 A W-1 in the wavelength range from 330 nm to 450 nm. At lower wavelengths, close to the Van Hove singularity of the density of states in graphene, we measured an even higher responsivity of 14.5 A W-1 at 280 nm, which corresponds to a more than 10 000-fold enhancement over the photoresponse of native graphene.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Nanoparticles on the move for medicine

Fischer, P.

Physics World Focus on Nanotechnology, pages: 26028, (Editors: Margaret Harris), IOP Publishing Ltd and individual contributors, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
Peer Fischer outlines the prospects for creating “nanoswimmers” that can be steered through the body to deliver drugs directly to their targets Molecules don’t move very fast on their own. If they had to rely solely on diffusion – a slow and inefficient process linked to the Brownian motion of small particles and molecules in solution – then a protein mole­cule, for instance, would take around three weeks to travel a single centimetre down a nerve fibre. This is why active transport mechanisms exist in cells and in the human body: without them, all the processes of life would happen at a pace that would make snails look speedy.

pf

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]