TitleThe Quest for Natural Machine Motion: An Open Platform to Fast-Prototyping Articulated Soft Robots
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsC. Della Santina,, Piazza, C, Gasparri, GM, Bonilla, M, Catalano, MG, Grioli, G, Garabini, M, Bicchi, A
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine
Pagination48 - 56
Soft robots are one of the most significant recent evolutions in robotics. They rely on compliant physical structures purposefully designed to embody desired characteristics. Since their introduction, they have shown remarkable applicability in overcoming their rigid counterparts in such areas as interaction with humans, adaptability, energy efficiency, and maximization of peak performance. Nonetheless, we believe
that research on novel soft robot applications is still slowed by the difficulty in obtaining or developing a working soft robot structure to explore novel applications.
In this article, we present the Natural Machine Motion Initiative (NMMI), a modular open platform that aims to provide the scientific community with tools for fast and easy prototyping of articulated soft robots. Such a platform is composed of three main open hardware modules: the Qbmoves variable-stiffness actuators (VSAs) to build the main robotic structure, soft end effectors (EEs) to interact with the world, and a pool of application-specific add-ons. We also discuss many novel uses of the platform to rapidly prototype (RP) and test new robotic structures with original soft capabilities, and we propose NMMI- based experiments.

Open access

e wish to thank Samuele Batazzi, Fabio Bonomo, Alberto
Brando, Andrea Di Basco, Tommaso Pardi, Riccardo Persichi-
ni, and Alessandro Raugi for their valuable support in the
development of the hardware prototype. This work was sup-
ported by SOFTPRO (grant 688857) and SOMA (grant
645599)—projects of the European Commission’s Horizon
2020 research program—and by Walk-Man grant 611832.
Support also came from the European Research Council
under an Advanced Grant for “SoftHands: A Theory of Soft
Synergies for a New Generation of Artificial Hands” (grant
Refereed DesignationRefereed
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