The sustainability of social robotics and other ambitious research programs
depends on the identification of lines of research that are coherent with its
visionary goals while satisfying more stringent constraints of feasibility and near-
term pay-offs. These multiple constraints are naturally conducive to the idea of a
society of robots operating within the physical environments of everyday human
life, developing there rich robot-robot social exchanges, and yet refraining from
any physical contact with human beings.
Achieving the visionary goals of social robotics or its more realistic objectives
requires extensive multidisciplinary cooperation. Accordingly, social robotics
may come to play a significant coordinating role for the constellation of research
communities in robotics. This coordinating role is exemplified here by reference
to a principled approach to robotic hand control based on sensory-motor soft
synergies: pursued in some current investigations on artificial hands, this
approach promises to meet distinctive needs arising in social robotics in the way
of dexterous manipulation of objects that are primarily conceived for human use.