Soft robots interacting with their environment
One specificity of soft robots is their ability to be compliant when interacting with their environment. While the control of rigid robots assumes that the robot will operate in a collision-free environment, deformable robots could take advantage of the contacts with their environment to perform a task. For instance, the snake relies on body contact and anisotropic friction in order to move itself on many surfaces. Correct and fast simulation of soft robot interacting with its environment, possibly soft, is a major challenge we are working on. For example, correctly modeling and simulating soft robots interactions is crucial to the development of surgical soft robotics where the robots is interacting with the patients.
Another point is that thanks to its deformable nature, soft robots can also be used as sensors. Indeed, by predicting the robot shape form its actuation, and having feedback on their actual shape, through for example RGBD camera, allows to compute what forces applied of the robot surface best explains the deformation discrepancy.
Related papers & videos
Numerical Simulation of Cochlear-Implant Surgery: Towards Patient-Specific Planning.
O. Goury, Y. Nguyen, R. Torres, J. Dequidt and C. Duriez
19th International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Medical Asserted Intervention (MICCAI), 2016, Page, Pdf, Video