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2019


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Learning Latent Space Dynamics for Tactile Servoing

Sutanto, G., Ratliff, N., Sundaralingam, B., Chebotar, Y., Su, Z., Handa, A., Fox, D.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings) Accepted

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pdf video [BibTex]

2019


pdf video [BibTex]


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Elastic modulus affects adhesive strength of gecko-inspired synthetics in variable temperature and humidity

Mitchell, CT, Drotlef, D, Dayan, CB, Sitti, M, Stark, AY

In INTEGRATIVE AND COMPARATIVE BIOLOGY, pages: E372-E372, OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC JOURNALS DEPT, 2001 EVANS RD, CARY, NC 27513 USA, March 2019 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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X-ray Optics Fabrication Using Unorthodox Approaches

Sanli, U., Baluktsian, M., Ceylan, H., Sitti, M., Weigand, M., Schütz, G., Keskinbora, K.

Bulletin of the American Physical Society, APS, 2019 (article)

mms pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Microrobotics and Microorganisms: Biohybrid Autonomous Cellular Robots

Alapan, Y., Yasa, O., Yigit, B., Yasa, I. C., Erkoc, P., Sitti, M.

Annual Review of Control, Robotics, and Autonomous Systems, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Tailored Magnetic Springs for Shape-Memory Alloy Actuated Mechanisms in Miniature Robots

Woodward, M. A., Sitti, M.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 35, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Animals can incorporate large numbers of actuators because of the characteristics of muscles; whereas, robots cannot, as typical motors tend to be large, heavy, and inefficient. However, shape-memory alloys (SMA), materials that contract during heating because of change in their crystal structure, provide another option. SMA, though, is unidirectional and therefore requires an additional force to reset (extend) the actuator, which is typically provided by springs or antagonistic actuation. These strategies, however, tend to limit the actuator's work output and functionality as their force-displacement relationships typically produce increasing resistive force with limited variability. In contrast, magnetic springs-composed of permanent magnets, where the interaction force between magnets mimics a spring force-have much more variable force-displacement relationships and scale well with SMA. However, as of yet, no method for designing magnetic springs for SMA-actuators has been demonstrated. Therefore, in this paper, we present a new methodology to tailor magnetic springs to the characteristics of these actuators, with experimental results both for the device and robot-integrated SMA-actuators. We found magnetic building blocks, based on sets of permanent magnets, which are well-suited to SMAs and have the potential to incorporate features such as holding force, state transitioning, friction minimization, auto-alignment, and self-mounting. We show magnetic springs that vary by more than 3 N in 750 $\mu$m and two SMA-actuated devices that allow the MultiMo-Bat to reach heights of up to 4.5 m without, and 3.6 m with, integrated gliding airfoils. Our results demonstrate the potential of this methodology to add previously impossible functionality to smart material actuators. We anticipate this methodology will inspire broader consideration of the use of magnetic springs in miniature robots and further study of the potential of tailored magnetic springs throughout mechanical systems.

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DOI [BibTex]


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The near and far of a pair of magnetic capillary disks

Koens, L., Wang, W., Sitti, M., Lauga, E.

Soft Matter, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Multifarious Transit Gates for Programmable Delivery of Bio‐functionalized Matters

Hu, X., Torati, S. R., Kim, H., Yoon, J., Lim, B., Kim, K., Sitti, M., Kim, C.

Small, Wiley Online Library, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Mechanics of a pressure-controlled adhesive membrane for soft robotic gripping on curved surfaces

Song, S., Drotlef, D., Paik, J., Majidi, C., Sitti, M.

Extreme Mechanics Letters, Elsevier, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]


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Graphene oxide synergistically enhances antibiotic efficacy in Vancomycin resistance Staphylococcus aureus

Singh, V., Kumar, V., Kashyap, S., Singh, A. V., Kishore, V., Sitti, M., Saxena, P. S., Srivastava, A.

ACS Applied Bio Materials, ACS Publications, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Review of emerging concepts in nanotoxicology: opportunities and challenges for safer nanomaterial design

Singh, A. V., Laux, P., Luch, A., Sudrik, C., Wiehr, S., Wild, A., Santamauro, G., Bill, J., Sitti, M.

Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Automated Generation of Reactive Programs from Human Demonstration for Orchestration of Robot Behaviors

Berenz, V., Bjelic, A., Mainprice, J.

ArXiv, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Social robots or collaborative robots that have to interact with people in a reactive way are difficult to program. This difficulty stems from the different skills required by the programmer: to provide an engaging user experience the behavior must include a sense of aesthetics while robustly operating in a continuously changing environment. The Playful framework allows composing such dynamic behaviors using a basic set of action and perception primitives. Within this framework, a behavior is encoded as a list of declarative statements corresponding to high-level sensory-motor couplings. To facilitate non-expert users to program such behaviors, we propose a Learning from Demonstration (LfD) technique that maps motion capture of humans directly to a Playful script. The approach proceeds by identifying the sensory-motor couplings that are active at each step using the Viterbi path in a Hidden Markov Model (HMM). Given these activation patterns, binary classifiers called evaluations are trained to associate activations to sensory data. Modularity is increased by clustering the sensory-motor couplings, leading to a hierarchical tree structure. The novelty of the proposed approach is that the learned behavior is encoded not in terms of trajectories in a task space, but as couplings between sensory information and high-level motor actions. This provides advantages in terms of behavioral generalization and reactivity displayed by the robot.

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Support Video link (url) [BibTex]


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Mobile microrobots for active therapeutic delivery

Erkoc, P., Yasa, I. C., Ceylan, H., Yasa, O., Alapan, Y., Sitti, M.

Advanced Therapeutics, Wiley Online Library, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Microfluidics Integrated Lithography‐Free Nanophotonic Biosensor for the Detection of Small Molecules

Sreekanth, K. V., Sreejith, S., Alapan, Y., Sitti, M., Lim, C. T., Singh, R.

Advanced Optical Materials, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Gecko-inspired composite microfibers for reversible adhesion on smooth and rough surfaces

Drotlef, D., Dayan, C., Sitti, M.

In INTEGRATIVE AND COMPARATIVE BIOLOGY, pages: E58-E58, OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC JOURNALS DEPT, 2001 EVANS RD, CARY, NC 27513 USA, 2019 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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ENGINEERING Bio-inspired robotic collectives

Sitti, M.

Nature, 567, pages: 314-315, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., London, England, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Electromechanical actuation of dielectric liquid crystal elastomers for soft robotics

Davidson, Z., Shahsavan, H., Guo, Y., Hines, L., Xia, Y., Yang, S., Sitti, M.

Bulletin of the American Physical Society, APS, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2018


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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl universal custom complex magnetic spring design methodology
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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [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.

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link (url) DOI [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.

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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.

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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.

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [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.

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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.

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DOI 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.

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arXiv pdf Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv pdf Project Page [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.

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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.

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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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl 41586 2018 250 fig1 html
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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [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.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [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.

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pdf video code [BibTex]

pdf video code [BibTex]


Thumb xl learning ct w asm block diagram detailed
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)

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pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


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Soft erythrocyte-based bacterial microswimmers for cargo delivery

Alapan, Y., Yasa, O., Schauer, O., Giltinan, J., Tabak, A. F., Sourjik, V., Sitti, M.

Science Robotics, 3(17):eaar4423, Science Robotics, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
Bacteria-propelled biohybrid microswimmers have recently shown to be able to actively transport and deliver cargos encapsulated into their synthetic constructs to specific regions locally. However, usage of synthetic materials as cargo carriers can result in inferior performance in load-carrying efficiency, biocompatibility, and biodegradability, impeding clinical translation of biohybrid microswimmers. Here, we report construction and external guidance of bacteria-driven microswimmers using red blood cells (RBCs; erythrocytes) as autologous cargo carriers for active and guided drug delivery. Multifunctional biohybrid microswimmers were fabricated by attachment of RBCs [loaded with anticancer doxorubicin drug molecules and superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs)] to bioengineered motile bacteria, Escherichia coli MG1655, via biotin-avidin-biotin binding complex. Autonomous and on-board propulsion of biohybrid microswimmers was provided by bacteria, and their external magnetic guidance was enabled by SPIONs loaded into the RBCs. Furthermore, bacteria-driven RBC microswimmers displayed preserved deformability and attachment stability even after squeezing in microchannels smaller than their sizes, as in the case of bare RBCs. In addition, an on-demand light-activated hyperthermia termination switch was engineered for RBC microswimmers to control bacteria population after operations. RBCs, as biological and autologous cargo carriers in the biohybrid microswimmers, offer notable advantages in stability, deformability, biocompatibility, and biodegradability over synthetic cargo-carrier materials. The biohybrid microswimmer design presented here transforms RBCs from passive cargo carriers into active and guidable cargo carriers toward targeted drug and other cargo delivery applications in medicine.

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

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


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Miniature soft robots – road to the clinic

Sitti, M.

Nature Reviews Materials, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
Soft small robots offer the opportunity to non-invasively access human tissue to perform medical operations and deliver drugs; however, challenges in materials design, biocompatibility and function control remain to be overcome for soft robots to reach the clinic.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl nl 2018 001642 0005
Wrinkling Instability and Adhesion of a Highly Bendable Gallium Oxide Nanofilm Encapsulating a Liquid-Gallium Droplet

Yunusa, M., Amador, G. J., Drotlef, D., Sitti, M.

Nano Letters, 18(4):2498-2504, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
The wrinkling and interfacial adhesion mechanics of a gallium-oxide nanofilm encapsulating a liquid-gallium droplet are presented. The native oxide nanofilm provides mechanical stability by preventing the flow of the liquid metal. We show how a crumpled oxide skin a few nanometers thick behaves akin to a highly bendable elastic nanofilm under ambient conditions. Upon compression, a wrinkling instability emerges at the contact interface to relieve the applied stress. As the load is further increased, radial wrinkles evolve, and, eventually, the oxide nanofilm ruptures. The observed wrinkling closely resembles the instability experienced by nanofilms under axisymmetric loading, thus providing further insights into the behaviors of elastic nanofilms. Moreover, the mechanical attributes of the oxide skin enable high surface conformation by exhibiting liquid-like behavior. We measured an adhesion energy of 0.238 ± 0.008 J m–2 between a liquid-gallium droplet and smooth flat glass, which is close to the measurements of thin-sheet nanomaterials such as graphene on silicon dioxide.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Magnetic-Visual Sensor Fusion-based Dense 3D Reconstruction and Localization for Endoscopic Capsule Robots

Turan, M., Almalioglu, Y., Ornek, E. P., Araujo, H., Yanik, M. F., Sitti, M.

ArXiv e-prints, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
Reliable and real-time 3D reconstruction and localization functionality is a crucial prerequisite for the navigation of actively controlled capsule endoscopic robots as an emerging, minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic technology for use in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In this study, we propose a fully dense, non-rigidly deformable, strictly real-time, intraoperative map fusion approach for actively controlled endoscopic capsule robot applications which combines magnetic and vision-based localization, with non-rigid deformations based frame-to-model map fusion. The performance of the proposed method is demonstrated using four different ex-vivo porcine stomach models. Across different trajectories of varying speed and complexity, and four different endoscopic cameras, the root mean square surface reconstruction errors 1.58 to 2.17 cm.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Unsupervised Odometry and Depth Learning for Endoscopic Capsule Robots

Turan, M., Ornek, E. P., Ibrahimli, N., Giracoglu, C., Almalioglu, Y., Yanik, M. F., Sitti, M.

ArXiv e-prints, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
In the last decade, many medical companies and research groups have tried to convert passive capsule endoscopes as an emerging and minimally invasive diagnostic technology into actively steerable endoscopic capsule robots which will provide more intuitive disease detection, targeted drug delivery and biopsy-like operations in the gastrointestinal(GI) tract. In this study, we introduce a fully unsupervised, real-time odometry and depth learner for monocular endoscopic capsule robots. We establish the supervision by warping view sequences and assigning the re-projection minimization to the loss function, which we adopt in multi-view pose estimation and single-view depth estimation network. Detailed quantitative and qualitative analyses of the proposed framework performed on non-rigidly deformable ex-vivo porcine stomach datasets proves the effectiveness of the method in terms of motion estimation and depth recovery.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Self‐Folded Hydrogel Tubes for Implantable Muscular Tissue Scaffolds

Vannozzi, L., Yasa, I. C., Ceylan, H., Menciassi, A., Ricotti, L., Sitti, M.

Macromolecular Bioscience, (0), March 2018 (article)

Abstract
Abstract Programming materials with tunable physical and chemical interactions among its components pave the way of generating 3D functional active microsystems with various potential applications in tissue engineering, drug delivery, and soft robotics. Here, the development of a recapitulated fascicle‐like implantable muscle construct by programmed self‐folding of poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate hydrogels is reported. The system comprises two stacked layers, each with differential swelling degrees, stiffnesses, and thicknesses in 2D, which folds into a 3D tube together. Inside the tubes, muscle cell adhesion and their spatial alignment are controlled. Both skeletal and cardiac muscle cells also exhibit high viability, and cardiac myocytes preserve their contractile function over the course of 7 d. Integration of biological cells with smart, shape‐changing materials could give rise to the development of new cellular constructs for hierarchical tissue assembly, drug testing platforms, and biohybrid actuators that can perform sophisticated tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Redox metals homeostasis in multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a review

Sheykhansari, S., Kozielski, K., Bill, J., Sitti, M., Gemmati, D., Zamboni, P., Singh, A. V.

Cell Death \& Disease, 9(3):348, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
The effect of redox metals such as iron and copper on multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has been intensively studied. However, the origin of these disorders remains uncertain. This review article critically describes the physiology of redox metals that produce oxidative stress, which in turn leads to cascades of immunomodulatory alteration of neurons in multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Iron and copper overload has been well established in motor neurons of these diseases' lesions. On the other hand, the role of other metals like cadmium participating indirectly in the redox cascade of neurobiological mechanism is less studied. In the second part of this review, we focus on this less conspicuous correlation between cadmium as an inactive-redox metal and multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, providing novel treatment modalities and approaches as future prospects.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]