In recent years, the discipline known as Flexible Robotics or Soft Robotics has emerged as a new challenge for robotic engineering that has transformed traditional approaches to the development of these machines. “Hard” robotics, based on resistant materials, intended for industrial applications and environments which are hazardous for people and which are limited to a controlled environment, has given way to the design of robots inspired by nature, made from flexible materials and conceived to be adaptable to a changing environment.
Flexible robotics poses many challenges and possibilities which will be discussed at the First International Symposium on “Soft Robotics” in Germany, hosted by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft at the Stuttgart Institutszentrum on 23rd to 24th June. The symposium was organised by the University of Stuttgart together with various organisations and with the participation of researchers from various laboratories and research centres on robotics in Europe, such as the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab in Switzerland, the BioRobotics Institute in Pisa, the Autonomous Intelligent Systems Group at the University of Bonn, Yokneam Illit in Israel and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. At this meeting, issues will be addressed such as the manufacture of robots with soft materials, man-machine interaction, the integration of soft robots in uncontrolled environments, applications in medicine (e.g. prosthetics) and the possibility of developing “soft” robots as personal assistants to people in various working environments in the domestic environment.