Color-Based Proprioception of Soft Actuators Interacting With Objects

Rob B. N. Scharff, Rens M. Doornbusch, Eugeni L. Doubrovski, Jun Wu, Jo M. P. Geraedts, Charlie C. L. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Actuators using soft materials feature a large number of degrees of freedom. This tremendous flexibility allows a soft actuator to passively adapt its shape to the objects under interaction. In this paper, we propose a novel proprioception method for soft actuators during real-time interaction with previously unknown objects. First, we design a color-based sensing structure that instantly translates the inflation of a bellow into changes in color, which are subsequently detected by a miniaturized color sensor. The color sensor is small and, thus, multiple of them can be integrated into soft pneumatic actuators to reflect local deformations. Second, we make use of a feed-forward neural network to reconstruct a multivariate global shape deformation from local color signals. Our results demonstrate that deformations of the actuator during interaction, including sigmoid-like shapes, can be accurately reconstructed. The accurate shape sensing represents a significant step toward closed-loop control of soft robots in unstructured environments.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics
Early online date19 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


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