Robert Katzschmann


Robert Katzschmann completed his doctoral and post-doctoral research at MIT, following a Masters at Stanford and KIT in Germany. His academic research has addressed fundamental academic and technical challenges in the creation, modeling, and control of soft robots. In the process, his work has spanned the development of actuator morphologies, casting and printing techniques, pneumatic and hydraulic powering methods, dynamic and impedance models, and real-time model-based controllers. These processes and algorithms were showcased through real-world applications such as a soft robotic fish swimming like a real fish in the ocean, soft robotic hands autonomously picking, identifying, and placing items, and multi-segment soft arms moving dynamically and precisely. He also developed wearable vision systems with multi-array tactile feedback that enable blind people to avoid obstacles, detect stairs, and navigate spaces without a white cane or guide dog. Robert's research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Boeing Company, and the Andrea Bocelli Foundation. His research is published at top-tier IEEE robotics conferences including ICRA, IROS and RoboSoft, and at several outstanding robotics journals including Science Robotics, International Journal of Robotics Research and Soft Robotics. The work received extensive coverage in multiple mainstream media outlets including the New York Times. Next to Robert's academic research, Robert has gathered industry experience as a systems engineer building and controlling robots for minimally invasive surgery and endoscopy, as a robotics consultant developing motion control software and mechatronic design for an underwater drone company, and as an applied scientist developing robotic systems for Amazon Robotics


Exploration of Underwater Life with an Acoustically-Controlled Soft Robotic Fish: Designing, Making, Controlling, and Testing

Closeup exploration of underwater life requires new forms of interaction, using biomimetic creatures that are capable of agile swimming maneuvers, equipped with cameras, and supported by remote human operation. Current robotic prototypes do not provide adequate platforms for studying marine life in their natural habitats. This talk will present the design, fabrication, control, and oceanic testing of a soft robotic fish that can swim in three dimensions to continuously record the aquatic life it is following or engaging. Using a miniaturized acoustic communication module, a diver can direct the fish by sending commands such as speed, turning angle, and dynamic vertical diving. The systems builds on previous generations of robotic fish that were restricted to one plane in shallow water, and lacked remote control. Experimental results gathered from tests along coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean show that the robotic fish can successfully navigate around aquatic life at depths ranging from 0 to 18 meters. Furthermore, the robotic fish exhibits a lifelike undulating tail motion enabled by a soft robotic actuator design that can potentially facilitate a more natural integration into the ocean environment. The study advances beyond what is currently achievable using traditional thruster-based and tethered autonomous underwater vehicles, demonstrating methods that can be used in the future for studying the interactions of aquatic life and ocean dynamics.