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  1. Soft robotics has witnessed increased attention from the robotic community due to their desirable features in compliant manipulation in unstructured spaces and human-friendly applications. Their light-weight designs and low-stiffness are ideally suited for environments with fragile and sensitive objects without causing damage. Deformation sensing of soft robots so far has relied on highly nonlinear bending sensors and vision-based methods that are not suitable for obtaining precise and reliable state feedback. In this work, for the first time, we explore the use of a state-of-the-art high fidelity deformation sensor that is based on optical frequency domain reflcctometry in soft bending actuators. These sensors are capable of providing spatial coordinate feedback along the length of the sensor at every 0.8 mm at up to 250 Hz. This work systematically analyzes the sensor feedback for soft bending actuator deformation and then introduces a reduced order kinematic model, together with cubic spline interpolation, which could be used to reconstruct the continuous deformation of the soft bending actuators. The kinematic model is then extended to derive an efficient dynamic model which runs at 1.5 kHz and validated against the experimental data.
  2. Abstract

    Modern marine biologists seeking to study or interact with deep-sea organisms are confronted with few options beyond industrial robotic arms, claws, and suction samplers. This limits biological interactions to a subset of “rugged” and mostly immotile fauna. As the deep sea is one of the most biologically diverse and least studied ecosystems on the planet, there is much room for innovation in facilitating delicate interactions with a multitude of organisms. The biodiversity and physiology of shallow marine systems, such as coral reefs, are common study targets due to the easier nature of access; SCUBA diving allows forin situdelicate human interactions. Beyond the range of technical SCUBA (~150 m), the ability to achieve the same level of human dexterity using robotic systems becomes critically important. The deep ocean is navigated primarily by manned submersibles or remotely operated vehicles, which currently offer few options for delicate manipulation. Here we present results in developing a soft robotic manipulator for deep-sea biological sampling. This low-power glove-controlled soft robot was designed with the future marine biologist in mind, where science can be conducted at a comparable or better means than via a human diver and at depths well beyond the limits of SCUBA. The technologymore »relies on compliant materials that are matched with the soft and fragile nature of marine organisms, and uses seawater as the working fluid. Actuators are driven by a custom proportional-control hydraulic engine that requires less than 50 W of electrical power, making it suitable for battery-powered operation. A wearable glove master allows for intuitive control of the arm. The manipulator system has been successfully operated in depths exceeding 2300 m (3500 psi) and has been field-tested onboard a manned submersible and unmanned remotely operated vehicles. The design, development, testing, and field trials of the soft manipulator is placed in context with existing systems and we offer suggestions for future work based on these findings.

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