Invited talk by Dr Maiolino from University of Oxford

TitleRobots with a Sense of Touch
Date:  26-09-2019
Location:  JUN0001, Seminar Room, BrayfordPool Campus

From:  14:00  TO  15:00

AbstractRobots operating in dynamic and unstructured environments must exhibit advanced forms of interaction with objects and humans. “Sense of Touch” in robots can play a fundamental role in enhancing perceptual, cognitive and operative capabilities of robots, specifically when they physically interact with objects and humans in the environment.

Many solutions to design, engineer and manufacture tactile sensors have been presented because the availability of appropriate sensing technologies is the first and necessary step, but the effective utilization of “sense of touch” in robots depends also on the understanding of tactile perception mechanism through which the robot builds an appropriate world model. Taking inspiration from how biological systems acquire and process sensory data to control behaviour for solving this problem, we can notice that the sensory information that reaches the brain is critically shaped by the active generation of sensory stimuli (sensory-motor coordination) and by the compliance/softness of the body. Conventional robotic systems are usually made of rigid materials and although this makes them extremely powerful and precise, it limits their ability to adapt their shape to constraints present in an unpredictable environment, which makes them extremely specialized. Softness and the use of deformable materials in robotic systems can play a role in tactile perception and they are shown to be crucial for environment and task uncertainty (i.e., locomotion in rough terrains, grasping and manipulation of unknown objects), but the design and development of soft robots, as well as their control, is really challenging.

The seminar will present current tactile sensing technologies, challenges ahead for soft robots and all key aspects to take into account for providing robots with a sense of touch.


BioP. Maiolino received her PhD in Robotics, her Meng in Robotics and Automation and BEng in Software Engineering from University of Genova (Italy). She joined the Mechatronic and Control Laboratory (MACLAB) at the Department of Informatics, Bioengineering, Robotics and System Engineering (DIBRIS) University of Genoa where, as PhD student first and then as research fellow, carried out research about new technological solutions for the development and integration of distributed tactile sensors for providing robots with the “sense of touch”. The artificial skin technology (CySkin) which has been objective of her research, has been integrated into several robotics platforms and is part of the blockbuster exhibition “Robots” which has been shown at Science Museum of London in 2017.

Before to join Oxford Robotics Institutes in 2018, She worked as Postdoctoral researcher at Biologically-inspired Robotics Lab (BIRL) at the University of Cambridge where she started to be interested in soft robotics pursuing research in soft robots sensing and perception. Currently, she is Associate Professor at Engineering Science Department and member of Oxford Robotics Institute at the University of Oxford where she is establishing the ORI Soft Robotics lab.

Her research interests and future research objectives are related to the development of new technological solutions for Soft Robots sensors and actuators and to investigate the role of “softness” in Soft Robots perception for achieving autonomy and intelligent behaviours.