In recent years, considerable efforts have been devoted to developing novel soft robots, yielding advances in biomimetic robot mechanisms, soft actuators, soft artificial organs, and biocompatible and conformable prostheses. To realize these applications, high-performance power sources, sensors, actuators, and processors made of soft materials are essential.
The final step to achieve wearable and autonomous soft robots is to remove their tether to electrical power and introduce untethered systems. The integration of new, flexible energy harvesting/storage devices with soft actuators and sensors makes it possible to achieve this ultimate form of soft robots. For further development and future practical applications, multidisciplinary research linking materials, devices, actuation, mechanics, and information processing is critical. Based on this motivation, the main purpose of this symposium, by gathering researchers from different disciplines worldwide, is to discuss the challenges and possibilities for the next generation of soft robots. This symposium will cover newly developed materials, thin and light-weight energy harvesting/storage devices, flexible/stretchable sensors, flexible photonics for sensing and stimulation, new mechanics, and artificial intelligence.
Thanks to their tissue-like mechanical compliance (including both flexibility and stretchability), devices built with soft materials can serve as the interface between the electronic world and the biological one, conforming to internal organs or skin and other soft, curved surfaces. Furthermore, the stretchability of these devices allows them to maintain operation even under large deformation. Already, soft robots and soft machines that integrate energy harvesting, sensing, actuation, and information processing have appeared, heralding remarkable potential applications in wearable consumer electronics, mobile health monitoring, artificial prostheses, artificial organs, and disaster relief.