Robotics has created machines that can perform high-precision, high-speed tasks in well-controlled environments. However, in order to move robots into the real world, the goals of precision and repeatability must be replaced by robustness, adaptability, and human-safety. Working toward the vision of robots in the real world, my research focuses on the mechanics, materials, design, and manufacturing for novel robotic paradigms. These currently include soft, metamorphic, and wearable robotics, and I envision expanding to include self-healing, self-replicating, and self-assembling robotic paradigms.
Basic research questions for these novel robotic paradigms include manufacturing of multi-scale and multi-material structures, new actuation, new material composites, and mechanical intelligence—the ability to alleviate control complexity by using feedback embedded within mechanical systems.
I will present three examples of my work on novel robotic paradigms: 1) A soft robotic gripper exploiting gecko-inspired adhesives to grasp without squeezing, 2) A metamorphic, “programmable matter,” that leverages the principles of origami to autonomously fold from a 2D sheet into 3D objects, and 3) A wearable device that allowed me to be the first human to climb a glass wall with a hand-sized area of gecko-inspired adhesives.