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2019


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Implementation of a 6-DOF Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues

Young, E. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 12(3):295-306, June 2019 (article)

Abstract
Existing fingertip haptic devices can deliver different subsets of tactile cues in a compact package, but we have not yet seen a wearable six-degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) display. This paper presents the Fuppeteer (short for Fingertip Puppeteer), a device that is capable of controlling the position and orientation of a flat platform, such that any combination of normal and shear force can be delivered at any location on any human fingertip. We build on our previous work of designing a parallel continuum manipulator for fingertip haptics by presenting a motorized version in which six flexible Nitinol wires are actuated via independent roller mechanisms and proportional-derivative controllers. We evaluate the settling time and end-effector vibrations observed during system responses to step inputs. After creating a six-dimensional lookup table and adjusting simulated inputs using measured Jacobians, we show that the device can make contact with all parts of the fingertip with a mean error of 1.42 mm. Finally, we present results from a human-subject study. A total of 24 users discerned 9 evenly distributed contact locations with an average accuracy of 80.5%. Translational and rotational shear cues were identified reasonably well near the center of the fingertip and more poorly around the edges.

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DOI [BibTex]


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The Perception of Ultrasonic Square Reductions of Friction With Variable Sharpness and Duration

Gueorguiev, D., Vezzoli, E., Sednaoui, T., Grisoni, L., Lemaire-Semail, B.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 12(2):179-188, January 2019 (article)

Abstract
The human perception of square ultrasonic modulation of the finger-surface friction was investigated during active tactile exploration by using short frictional cues of varying duration and sharpness. In a first experiment, we asked participants to discriminate the transition time and duration of short square ultrasonic reductions of friction. They proved very sensitive to discriminate millisecond differences in these two parameters with the average psychophysical thresholds being 2.3–2.4 ms for both parameters. A second experiment focused on the perception of square friction reductions with variable transition times and durations. We found that for durations of the stimulation larger than 90 ms, participants often perceived three or four edges when only two stimulations were presented while they consistently felt two edges for signals shorter than 50 ms. A subsequent analysis of the contact forces induced by these ultrasonic stimulations during slow and fast active exploration showed that two identical consecutive ultrasonic pulses can induce significantly different frictional dynamics especially during fast motion of the finger. These results confirm the human sensitivity to transient frictional cues and suggest that the human perception of square reductions of friction can depend on their sharpness and duration as well as on the speed of exploration.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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How Does It Feel to Clap Hands with a Robot?

Fitter, N. T., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

International Journal of Social Robotics, 2019 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Future robots may need lighthearted physical interaction capabilities to connect with people in meaningful ways. To begin exploring how users perceive playful human–robot hand-to-hand interaction, we conducted a study with 20 participants. Each user played simple hand-clapping games with the Rethink Robotics Baxter Research Robot during a 1-h-long session involving 24 randomly ordered conditions that varied in facial reactivity, physical reactivity, arm stiffness, and clapping tempo. Survey data and experiment recordings demonstrate that this interaction is viable: all users successfully completed the experiment and mentioned enjoying at least one game without prompting. Hand-clapping tempo was highly salient to users, and human-like robot errors were more widely accepted than mechanical errors. Furthermore, perceptions of Baxter varied in the following statistically significant ways: facial reactivity increased the robot’s perceived pleasantness and energeticness; physical reactivity decreased pleasantness, energeticness, and dominance; higher arm stiffness increased safety and decreased dominance; and faster tempo increased energeticness and increased dominance. These findings can motivate and guide roboticists who want to design social–physical human–robot interactions.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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X-ray Optics Fabrication Using Unorthodox Approaches

Sanli, U., Baluktsian, M., Ceylan, H., Sitti, M., Weigand, M., Schütz, G., Keskinbora, K.

Bulletin of the American Physical Society, APS, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Microrobotics and Microorganisms: Biohybrid Autonomous Cellular Robots

Alapan, Y., Yasa, O., Yigit, B., Yasa, I. C., Erkoc, P., Sitti, M.

Annual Review of Control, Robotics, and Autonomous Systems, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Tailored Magnetic Springs for Shape-Memory Alloy Actuated Mechanisms in Miniature Robots

Woodward, M. A., Sitti, M.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 35, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Animals can incorporate large numbers of actuators because of the characteristics of muscles; whereas, robots cannot, as typical motors tend to be large, heavy, and inefficient. However, shape-memory alloys (SMA), materials that contract during heating because of change in their crystal structure, provide another option. SMA, though, is unidirectional and therefore requires an additional force to reset (extend) the actuator, which is typically provided by springs or antagonistic actuation. These strategies, however, tend to limit the actuator's work output and functionality as their force-displacement relationships typically produce increasing resistive force with limited variability. In contrast, magnetic springs-composed of permanent magnets, where the interaction force between magnets mimics a spring force-have much more variable force-displacement relationships and scale well with SMA. However, as of yet, no method for designing magnetic springs for SMA-actuators has been demonstrated. Therefore, in this paper, we present a new methodology to tailor magnetic springs to the characteristics of these actuators, with experimental results both for the device and robot-integrated SMA-actuators. We found magnetic building blocks, based on sets of permanent magnets, which are well-suited to SMAs and have the potential to incorporate features such as holding force, state transitioning, friction minimization, auto-alignment, and self-mounting. We show magnetic springs that vary by more than 3 N in 750 $\mu$m and two SMA-actuated devices that allow the MultiMo-Bat to reach heights of up to 4.5 m without, and 3.6 m with, integrated gliding airfoils. Our results demonstrate the potential of this methodology to add previously impossible functionality to smart material actuators. We anticipate this methodology will inspire broader consideration of the use of magnetic springs in miniature robots and further study of the potential of tailored magnetic springs throughout mechanical systems.

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DOI [BibTex]


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Magnetically Actuated Soft Capsule Endoscope for Fine-Needle Biopsy

Son, D., Gilbert, H., Sitti, M.

Soft robotics, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers 140 Huguenot Street, 3rd Floor New …, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Thrust and Hydrodynamic Efficiency of the Bundled Flagella

Danis, U., Rasooli, R., Chen, C., Dur, O., Sitti, M., Pekkan, K.

Micromachines, 10, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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The near and far of a pair of magnetic capillary disks

Koens, L., Wang, W., Sitti, M., Lauga, E.

Soft Matter, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Multifarious Transit Gates for Programmable Delivery of Bio‐functionalized Matters

Hu, X., Torati, S. R., Kim, H., Yoon, J., Lim, B., Kim, K., Sitti, M., Kim, C.

Small, Wiley Online Library, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Multi-functional soft-bodied jellyfish-like swimming

Ren, Z., Hu, W., Dong, X., Sitti, M.

Nature communications, 10, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]


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Welcome to Progress in Biomedical Engineering

Sitti, M.

Progress in Biomedical Engineering, 1, IOP Publishing, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Mechanics of a pressure-controlled adhesive membrane for soft robotic gripping on curved surfaces

Song, S., Drotlef, D., Paik, J., Majidi, C., Sitti, M.

Extreme Mechanics Letters, Elsevier, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]


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Graphene oxide synergistically enhances antibiotic efficacy in Vancomycin resistance Staphylococcus aureus

Singh, V., Kumar, V., Kashyap, S., Singh, A. V., Kishore, V., Sitti, M., Saxena, P. S., Srivastava, A.

ACS Applied Bio Materials, ACS Publications, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Review of emerging concepts in nanotoxicology: opportunities and challenges for safer nanomaterial design

Singh, A. V., Laux, P., Luch, A., Sudrik, C., Wiehr, S., Wild, A., Santamauro, G., Bill, J., Sitti, M.

Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Multifunctional and biodegradable self-propelled protein motors

Pena-Francesch, A., Giltinan, J., Sitti, M.

Nature communications, 10, Nature Publishing Group, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Cohesive self-organization of mobile microrobotic swarms

Yigit, B., Alapan, Y., Sitti, M.

arXiv preprint arXiv:1907.05856, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Mobile microrobots for active therapeutic delivery

Erkoc, P., Yasa, I. C., Ceylan, H., Yasa, O., Alapan, Y., Sitti, M.

Advanced Therapeutics, Wiley Online Library, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Shape-encoded dynamic assembly of mobile micromachines

Alapan, Y., Yigit, B., Beker, O., Demirörs, A. F., Sitti, M.

Nature, 18, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Microfluidics Integrated Lithography‐Free Nanophotonic Biosensor for the Detection of Small Molecules

Sreekanth, K. V., Sreejith, S., Alapan, Y., Sitti, M., Lim, C. T., Singh, R.

Advanced Optical Materials, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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ENGINEERING Bio-inspired robotic collectives

Sitti, M.

Nature, 567, pages: 314-315, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., London, England, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Peptide-Induced Biomineralization of Tin Oxide (SnO2) Nanoparticles for Antibacterial Applications

Singh, A. V., Jahnke, T., Xiao, Y., Wang, S., Yu, Y., David, H., Richter, G., Laux, P., Luch, A., Srivastava, A., Saxena, P. S., Bill, J., Sitti, M.

Journal of nanoscience and nanotechnology, 19, American Scientific Publishers, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Electromechanical actuation of dielectric liquid crystal elastomers for soft robotics

Davidson, Z., Shahsavan, H., Guo, Y., Hines, L., Xia, Y., Yang, S., Sitti, M.

Bulletin of the American Physical Society, APS, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning to Navigate Endoscopic Capsule Robots

Turan, M., Almalioglu, Y., Gilbert, H. B., Mahmood, F., Durr, N. J., Araujo, H., Sarı, A. E., Ajay, A., Sitti, M.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 4, 2019 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2018


Thumb xl screenshot 2018 5 9 swimming back and forth using planar flagellar propulsion at low reynolds numbers   khalil   2018   adv ...
Swimming Back and Forth Using Planar Flagellar Propulsion at Low Reynolds Numbers

Khalil, I. S. M., Tabak, A. F., Hamed, Y., Mitwally, M. E., Tawakol, M., Klingner, A., Sitti, M.

Advanced Science, 5(2):1700461, 2018 (article)

Abstract
Abstract Peritrichously flagellated Escherichia coli swim back and forth by wrapping their flagella together in a helical bundle. However, other monotrichous bacteria cannot swim back and forth with a single flagellum and planar wave propagation. Quantifying this observation, a magnetically driven soft two‐tailed microrobot capable of reversing its swimming direction without making a U‐turn trajectory or actively modifying the direction of wave propagation is designed and developed. The microrobot contains magnetic microparticles within the polymer matrix of its head and consists of two collinear, unequal, and opposite ultrathin tails. It is driven and steered using a uniform magnetic field along the direction of motion with a sinusoidally varying orthogonal component. Distinct reversal frequencies that enable selective and independent excitation of the first or the second tail of the microrobot based on their tail length ratio are found. While the first tail provides a propulsive force below one of the reversal frequencies, the second is almost passive, and the net propulsive force achieves flagellated motion along one direction. On the other hand, the second tail achieves flagellated propulsion along the opposite direction above the reversal frequency.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Universal Custom Complex Magnetic Spring Design Methodology

Woodward, M. A., Sitti, M.

IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, 54(1):1-13, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
A design methodology is presented for creating custom complex magnetic springs through the design of force-displacement curves. This methodology results in a magnet configuration, which will produce a desired force-displacement relationship. Initially, the problem is formulated and solved as a system of linear equations. Then, given the limited likelihood of a single solution being feasibly manufactured, key parameters of the solution are extracted and varied to create a family of solutions. Finally, these solutions are refined using numerical optimization. Given the properties of magnets, this methodology can create any well-defined function of force versus displacement and is model-independent. To demonstrate this flexibility, a number of example magnetic springs are designed; one of which, designed for use in a jumping-gliding robot's shape memory alloy actuated clutch, is manufactured and experimentally characterized. Due to the scaling of magnetic forces, the displacement region which these magnetic springs are most applicable is that of millimeters and below. However, this region is well situated for miniature robots and smart material actuators, where a tailored magnetic spring, designed to compliment a component, can enhance its performance while adding new functionality. The methodology is also expendable to variable interactions and multi-dimensional magnetic field design.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Softness, Warmth, and Responsiveness Improve Robot Hugs

Block, A. E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

International Journal of Social Robotics, 11(1):49-64, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
Hugs are one of the first forms of contact and affection humans experience. Due to their prevalence and health benefits, roboticists are naturally interested in having robots one day hug humans as seamlessly as humans hug other humans. This project's purpose is to evaluate human responses to different robot physical characteristics and hugging behaviors. Specifically, we aim to test the hypothesis that a soft, warm, touch-sensitive PR2 humanoid robot can provide humans with satisfying hugs by matching both their hugging pressure and their hugging duration. Thirty relatively young and rather technical participants experienced and evaluated twelve hugs with the robot, divided into three randomly ordered trials that focused on physical robot characteristics (single factor, three levels) and nine randomly ordered trials with low, medium, and high hug pressure and duration (two factors, three levels each). Analysis of the results showed that people significantly prefer soft, warm hugs over hard, cold hugs. Furthermore, users prefer hugs that physically squeeze them and release immediately when they are ready for the hug to end. Taking part in the experiment also significantly increased positive user opinions of robots and robot use.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Complexity, Rate, and Scale in Sliding Friction Dynamics Between a Finger and Textured Surface

Khojasteh, B., Janko, M., Visell, Y.

Nature Scientific Reports, 8(13710), September 2018 (article)

Abstract
Sliding friction between the skin and a touched surface is highly complex, but lies at the heart of our ability to discriminate surface texture through touch. Prior research has elucidated neural mechanisms of tactile texture perception, but our understanding of the nonlinear dynamics of frictional sliding between the finger and textured surfaces, with which the neural signals that encode texture originate, is incomplete. To address this, we compared measurements from human fingertips sliding against textured counter surfaces with predictions of numerical simulations of a model finger that resembled a real finger, with similar geometry, tissue heterogeneity, hyperelasticity, and interfacial adhesion. Modeled and measured forces exhibited similar complex, nonlinear sliding friction dynamics, force fluctuations, and prominent regularities related to the surface geometry. We comparatively analysed measured and simulated forces patterns in matched conditions using linear and nonlinear methods, including recurrence analysis. The model had greatest predictive power for faster sliding and for surface textures with length scales greater than about one millimeter. This could be attributed to the the tendency of sliding at slower speeds, or on finer surfaces, to complexly engage fine features of skin or surface, such as fingerprints or surface asperities. The results elucidate the dynamical forces felt during tactile exploration and highlight the challenges involved in the biological perception of surface texture via touch.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Instrumentation, Data, and Algorithms for Visually Understanding Haptic Surface Properties

Burka, A. L.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, August 2018, Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering (phdthesis)

Abstract
Autonomous robots need to efficiently walk over varied surfaces and grasp diverse objects. We hypothesize that the association between how such surfaces look and how they physically feel during contact can be learned from a database of matched haptic and visual data recorded from various end-effectors' interactions with hundreds of real-world surfaces. Testing this hypothesis required the creation of a new multimodal sensing apparatus, the collection of a large multimodal dataset, and development of a machine-learning pipeline. This thesis begins by describing the design and construction of the Portable Robotic Optical/Tactile ObservatioN PACKage (PROTONPACK, or Proton for short), an untethered handheld sensing device that emulates the capabilities of the human senses of vision and touch. Its sensory modalities include RGBD vision, egomotion, contact force, and contact vibration. Three interchangeable end-effectors (a steel tooling ball, an OptoForce three-axis force sensor, and a SynTouch BioTac artificial fingertip) allow for different material properties at the contact point and provide additional tactile data. We then detail the calibration process for the motion and force sensing systems, as well as several proof-of-concept surface discrimination experiments that demonstrate the reliability of the device and the utility of the data it collects. This thesis then presents a large-scale dataset of multimodal surface interaction recordings, including 357 unique surfaces such as furniture, fabrics, outdoor fixtures, and items from several private and public material sample collections. Each surface was touched with one, two, or three end-effectors, comprising approximately one minute per end-effector of tapping and dragging at various forces and speeds. We hope that the larger community of robotics researchers will find broad applications for the published dataset. Lastly, we demonstrate an algorithm that learns to estimate haptic surface properties given visual input. Surfaces were rated on hardness, roughness, stickiness, and temperature by the human experimenter and by a pool of purely visual observers. Then we trained an algorithm to perform the same task as well as infer quantitative properties calculated from the haptic data. Overall, the task of predicting haptic properties from vision alone proved difficult for both humans and computers, but a hybrid algorithm using a deep neural network and a support vector machine achieved a correlation between expected and actual regression output between approximately ρ = 0.3 and ρ = 0.5 on previously unseen surfaces.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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A Robust Soft Lens for Tunable Camera Application Using Dielectric Elastomer Actuators

Nam, S., Yun, S., Yoon, J. W., Park, S., Park, S. K., Mun, S., Park, B., Kyung, K.

Soft robotics, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Developing tunable lenses, an expansion-based mechanism for dynamic focus adjustment can provide a larger focal length tuning range than a contraction-based mechanism. Here, we develop an expansion-tunable soft lens module using a disk-type dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA) that creates axially symmetric pulling forces on a soft lens. Adopted from a biological accommodation mechanism in human eyes, a soft lens at the annular center of a disk-type DEA pair is efficiently stretched to change the focal length in a highly reliable manner. A soft lens with a diameter of 3mm shows a 65.7% change in the focal length (14.3–23.7mm) under a dynamic driving voltage signal control. We confirm a quadratic relation between lens expansion and focal length that leads to large focal length tunability obtainable in the proposed approach. The fabricated tunable lens module can be used for soft, lightweight, and compact vision components in robots, drones, vehicles, and so on.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Programmable collective behavior in dynamically self-assembled mobile microrobotic swarms

B Yigit, , Y Alapan, , Sitti, M.

Advanced Science, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Collective control of mobile microrobotic swarms is indispensable for their potential high-impact applications in targeted drug delivery, medical diagnostics, parallel micromanipulation, and environmental sensing and remediation. Lack of on-board computational and sensing capabilities in current microrobotic systems necessitates use of physical interactions among individual microrobots for local physical communication and cooperation. Here, we show that mobile microrobotic swarms with well-defined collective behavior can be designed by engineering magnetic interactions among individual units. Microrobots, consisting of a linear chain of self-assembled magnetic microparticles, locomote on surfaces in response to a precessing magnetic field. Control over the direction of precessing magnetic field allows engineering attractive and repulsive interactions among microrobots and, thus, collective order with well-defined spatial organization and parallel operation over macroscale distances (~ 1 cm). These microrobotic swarms can be guided through confined spaces, while preserving microrobot morphology and function. These swarms can further achieve directional transport of large cargoes on surfaces and small cargoes in bulk fluids. Described design approach, exploiting physical interactions among individual robots, enables facile and rapid formation of self-organized and reconfigurable microrobotic swarms with programmable collective order.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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3D-Printed Biodegradable Microswimmer for Drug Delivery and Targeted Cell Labeling

Hakan Ceylan, , I. Ceren Yasa, , Oncay Yasa, , Ahmet Fatih Tabak, , Joshua Giltinan, , Sitti, M.

bioRxiv, pages: 379024, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Miniaturization of interventional medical devices can leverage minimally invasive technologies by enabling operational resolution at cellular length scales with high precision and repeatability. Untethered micron-scale mobile robots can realize this by navigating and performing in hard-to-reach, confined and delicate inner body sites. However, such a complex task requires an integrated design and engineering strategy, where powering, control, environmental sensing, medical functionality and biodegradability need to be considered altogether. The present study reports a hydrogel-based, biodegradable microrobotic swimmer, which is responsive to the changes in its microenvironment for theranostic cargo delivery and release tasks. We design a double-helical magnetic microswimmer of 20 micrometers length, which is 3D-printed with complex geometrical and compositional features. At normal physiological concentrations, matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) enzyme can entirely degrade the microswimmer body in 118 h to solubilized non-toxic products. The microswimmer can respond to the pathological concentrations of MMP-2 by swelling and thereby accelerating the release kinetics of the drug payload. Anti-ErbB 2 antibody-tagged magnetic nanoparticles released from the degraded microswimmers serve for targeted labeling of SKBR3 breast cancer cells to realize the potential of medical imaging of local tissue sites following the therapeutic intervention. These results represent a leap forward toward clinical medical microrobots that are capable of sensing, responding to the local pathological information, and performing specific therapeutic and diagnostic tasks as orderly executed operations using their smart composite material architectures.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Robust Visual Augmented Reality in Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P.

Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy, July 2018, Department of Electronic, Information, and Biomedical Engineering (mastersthesis)

Abstract
The broader research objective of this line of research is to test the hypothesis that real-time stereo video analysis and augmented reality can increase safety and task efficiency in robot-assisted surgery. This master’s thesis aims to solve the first step needed to achieve this goal: the creation of a robust system that delivers the envisioned feedback to a surgeon while he or she controls a surgical robot that is identical to those used on human patients. Several approaches for applying augmented reality to da Vinci Surgical Systems have been proposed, but none of them entirely rely on a clinical robot; specifically, they require additional sensors, depend on access to the da Vinci API, are designed for a very specific task, or were tested on systems that are starkly different from those in clinical use. There has also been prior work that presents the real-world camera view and the computer graphics on separate screens, or not in real time. In other scenarios, the digital information is overlaid manually by the surgeons themselves or by computer scientists, rather than being generated automatically in response to the surgeon’s actions. We attempted to overcome the aforementioned constraints by acquiring input signals from the da Vinci stereo endoscope and providing augmented reality to the console in real time (less than 150 ms delay, including the 62 ms of inherent latency of the da Vinci). The potential benefits of the resulting system are broad because it was built to be general, rather than customized for any specific task. The entire platform is compatible with any generation of the da Vinci System and does not require a dVRK (da Vinci Research Kit) or access to the API. Thus, it can be applied to existing da Vinci Systems in operating rooms around the world.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Task-Driven PCA-Based Design Optimization of Wearable Cutaneous Devices

Pacchierotti, C., Young, E. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(3):2214-2221, July 2018, Presented at ICRA 2018 (article)

Abstract
Small size and low weight are critical requirements for wearable and portable haptic interfaces, making it essential to work toward the optimization of their sensing and actuation systems. This paper presents a new approach for task-driven design optimization of fingertip cutaneous haptic devices. Given one (or more) target tactile interactions to render and a cutaneous device to optimize, we evaluate the minimum number and best configuration of the device’s actuators to minimize the estimated haptic rendering error. First, we calculate the motion needed for the original cutaneous device to render the considered target interaction. Then, we run a principal component analysis (PCA) to search for possible couplings between the original motor inputs, looking also for the best way to reconfigure them. If some couplings exist, we can re-design our cutaneous device with fewer motors, optimally configured to render the target tactile sensation. The proposed approach is quite general and can be applied to different tactile sensors and cutaneous devices. We validated it using a BioTac tactile sensor and custom plate-based 3-DoF and 6-DoF fingertip cutaneous devices, considering six representative target tactile interactions. The algorithm was able to find couplings between each device’s motor inputs, proving it to be a viable approach to optimize the design of wearable and portable cutaneous devices. Finally, we present two examples of optimized designs for our 3-DoF fingertip cutaneous device.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Teaching a Robot Bimanual Hand-Clapping Games via Wrist-Worn IMUs

Fitter, N. T., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, 5(85), July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Colleagues often shake hands in greeting, friends connect through high fives, and children around the world rejoice in hand-clapping games. As robots become more common in everyday human life, they will have the opportunity to join in these social-physical interactions, but few current robots are intended to touch people in friendly ways. This article describes how we enabled a Baxter Research Robot to both teach and learn bimanual hand-clapping games with a human partner. Our system monitors the user's motions via a pair of inertial measurement units (IMUs) worn on the wrists. We recorded a labeled library of 10 common hand-clapping movements from 10 participants; this dataset was used to train an SVM classifier to automatically identify hand-clapping motions from previously unseen participants with a test-set classification accuracy of 97.0%. Baxter uses these sensors and this classifier to quickly identify the motions of its human gameplay partner, so that it can join in hand-clapping games. This system was evaluated by N = 24 naïve users in an experiment that involved learning sequences of eight motions from Baxter, teaching Baxter eight-motion game patterns, and completing a free interaction period. The motion classification accuracy in this less structured setting was 85.9%, primarily due to unexpected variations in motion timing. The quantitative task performance results and qualitative participant survey responses showed that learning games from Baxter was significantly easier than teaching games to Baxter, and that the teaching role caused users to consider more teamwork aspects of the gameplay. Over the course of the experiment, people felt more understood by Baxter and became more willing to follow the example of the robot. Users felt uniformly safe interacting with Baxter, and they expressed positive opinions of Baxter and reported fun interacting with the robot. Taken together, the results indicate that this robot achieved credible social-physical interaction with humans and that its ability to both lead and follow systematically changed the human partner's experience.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Innate turning preference of leaf-cutting ants in the absence of external orientation cues

Endlein, T., Sitti, M.

Journal of Experimental Biology, The Company of Biologists Ltd, June 2018 (article)

Abstract
Many ants use a combination of cues for orientation but how do ants find their way when all external cues are suppressed? Do they walk in a random way or are their movements spatially oriented? Here we show for the first time that leaf-cutting ants (Acromyrmex lundii) have an innate preference of turning counter-clockwise (left) when external cues are precluded. We demonstrated this by allowing individual ants to run freely on the water surface of a newly-developed treadmill. The surface tension supported medium-sized workers but effectively prevented ants from reaching the wall of the vessel, important to avoid wall-following behaviour (thigmotaxis). Most ants ran for minutes on the spot but also slowly turned counter-clockwise in the absence of visual cues. Reconstructing the effectively walked path revealed a looping pattern which could be interpreted as a search strategy. A similar turning bias was shown for groups of ants in a symmetrical Y-maze where twice as many ants chose the left branch in the absence of optical cues. Wall-following behaviour was tested by inserting a coiled tube before the Y-fork. When ants traversed a left-coiled tube, more ants chose the left box and vice versa. Adding visual cues in form of vertical black strips either outside the treadmill or on one branch of the Y-maze led to oriented walks towards the strips. It is suggested that both, the turning bias and the wall-following are employed as search strategies for an unknown environment which can be overridden by visual cues.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]