Research Topic

Shape Changing Robotic Structures and Interfaces

About this Research Topic

Traditional industrial robots, that are made of a rather small number of rigid linkages and stiff joints, operate in controlled, predictable environments. The introduction of reconfigurable and self-configurable robotic devices inspired by ancient folding techniques, such as Origami, were of paramount importance, enriching the traditional systems with the ability to change their geometry from one geometrical state to another and, hence, superior motion capabilities. Although referring to these mechanisms as being metamorphic, it is noted that these mechanisms are made from rigid body elements and defined as capable of changing their configurations. These capabilities have been truly revolutionised by current advances in material science with the emerging field of soft material robotics. The paradigm shift from traditionally rigid structures to robotic systems allows creating structures and robots that are highly redundant and not so predictable, suitable for applications where the interaction with the environment plays an important role in actually impacting on the robot’s motion behaviour. Researchers have taken inspiration from biology to create flexible and dexterous structures that can operate in and adapt to complex environment. In fact, living organisms have been continuously evolving to adapt to and survive in a world that is progressively changing around them. Some animals even have shape-shifting abilities that can morph instantaneously to fool others.

Shape-changing robotic structures and shape-changing interfaces (as known in the Human-Computer Interaction community) are transforming systems that physically change shape, exploiting 21st century robotics, including soft robotics, reconfigurable mechanisms, but also hinges on research areas such as modelling, control and material science. The design and fabrication process makes use of elements found in the field of reconfigurable mechanisms or soft material robotics or in a combination of both. Change in physical geometry can add new capabilities to these systems, making them ideal for application in areas such as healthcare, production, homecare, autonomous vehicles and for interfaces with computers and machines.

The scope of this Research Topic will be based around three key themes: (1) The technologies involved in shape-change, including soft, modular and reconfigurable robotics, smart materials, and actuation systems; (2) the design of shape-changing systems, including their key application areas, and their industrial and interaction design; and (3) current and future application areas.

List of topics
• Merging soft robotics and reconfigurable mechanisms: state of the art, current research efforts
• Design: basic architectures, optimization, scaling
• Haptic interfaces
• Controllability, stability of shape-changing devices
• Future direction of development in shape-changing systems
• Stiffness-controllable robotic structures
• Dynamic interaction modeling
• Shape-changing sensing systems
• Growing robot technologies
• Advanced functional materials for shape-, colour-changing robots
• 3/4D printing and fabrication
• Multi-material rapid prototyping/3D printing
• Smart and active materials
• Emerging fabrication techniques for shape changing systems
• Adaptive sensor morphology and morphological computation
• Modelling and simulation techniques of shape-changing robots

This Research Topic is based on a workshop on Shape Changing Robotic Structures and Interfaces, to be held at IROS 2018.


Keywords: Soft Robotics, Reconfigurable Robots and Mechanisms, Haptic Interfaces, Wearable Technology, Simulation, Modelling, Origami-Inspired Robotics, Bio-Inspired Robotics


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Traditional industrial robots, that are made of a rather small number of rigid linkages and stiff joints, operate in controlled, predictable environments. The introduction of reconfigurable and self-configurable robotic devices inspired by ancient folding techniques, such as Origami, were of paramount importance, enriching the traditional systems with the ability to change their geometry from one geometrical state to another and, hence, superior motion capabilities. Although referring to these mechanisms as being metamorphic, it is noted that these mechanisms are made from rigid body elements and defined as capable of changing their configurations. These capabilities have been truly revolutionised by current advances in material science with the emerging field of soft material robotics. The paradigm shift from traditionally rigid structures to robotic systems allows creating structures and robots that are highly redundant and not so predictable, suitable for applications where the interaction with the environment plays an important role in actually impacting on the robot’s motion behaviour. Researchers have taken inspiration from biology to create flexible and dexterous structures that can operate in and adapt to complex environment. In fact, living organisms have been continuously evolving to adapt to and survive in a world that is progressively changing around them. Some animals even have shape-shifting abilities that can morph instantaneously to fool others.

Shape-changing robotic structures and shape-changing interfaces (as known in the Human-Computer Interaction community) are transforming systems that physically change shape, exploiting 21st century robotics, including soft robotics, reconfigurable mechanisms, but also hinges on research areas such as modelling, control and material science. The design and fabrication process makes use of elements found in the field of reconfigurable mechanisms or soft material robotics or in a combination of both. Change in physical geometry can add new capabilities to these systems, making them ideal for application in areas such as healthcare, production, homecare, autonomous vehicles and for interfaces with computers and machines.

The scope of this Research Topic will be based around three key themes: (1) The technologies involved in shape-change, including soft, modular and reconfigurable robotics, smart materials, and actuation systems; (2) the design of shape-changing systems, including their key application areas, and their industrial and interaction design; and (3) current and future application areas.

List of topics
• Merging soft robotics and reconfigurable mechanisms: state of the art, current research efforts
• Design: basic architectures, optimization, scaling
• Haptic interfaces
• Controllability, stability of shape-changing devices
• Future direction of development in shape-changing systems
• Stiffness-controllable robotic structures
• Dynamic interaction modeling
• Shape-changing sensing systems
• Growing robot technologies
• Advanced functional materials for shape-, colour-changing robots
• 3/4D printing and fabrication
• Multi-material rapid prototyping/3D printing
• Smart and active materials
• Emerging fabrication techniques for shape changing systems
• Adaptive sensor morphology and morphological computation
• Modelling and simulation techniques of shape-changing robots

This Research Topic is based on a workshop on Shape Changing Robotic Structures and Interfaces, to be held at IROS 2018.


Keywords: Soft Robotics, Reconfigurable Robots and Mechanisms, Haptic Interfaces, Wearable Technology, Simulation, Modelling, Origami-Inspired Robotics, Bio-Inspired Robotics


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 January 2019 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 January 2019 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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