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  1. Legged locomotion is a highly promising but under–researched subfield within the field of soft robotics. The compliant limbs of soft-limbed robots offer numerous benefits, including the ability to regulate impacts, tolerate falls, and navigate through tight spaces. These robots have the potential to be used for various applications, such as search and rescue, inspection, surveillance, and more. The state-of-the-art still faces many challenges, including limited degrees of freedom, a lack of diversity in gait trajectories, insufficient limb dexterity, and limited payload capabilities. To address these challenges, we develop a modular soft-limbed robot that can mimic the locomotion of pinnipeds. By using a modular design approach, we aim to create a robot that has improved degrees of freedom, gait trajectory diversity, limb dexterity, and payload capabilities. We derive a complete floating-base kinematic model of the proposed robot and use it to generate and experimentally validate a variety of locomotion gaits. Results show that the proposed robot is capable of replicating these gaits effectively. We compare the locomotion trajectories under different gait parameters against our modeling results to demonstrate the validity of our proposed gait models. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 28, 2024
  2. Soft robotic snakes made of compliant materials can continuously deform their bodies and, therefore, mimic the biological snakes' flexible and agile locomotion gaits better than their rigid-bodied counterparts. Without wheel support, to date, soft robotic snakes are limited to emulating planar locomotion gaits, which are derived via kinematic modeling and tested on robotic prototypes. Given that the snake locomotion results from the reaction forces due to the distributed contact between their skin and the ground, it is essential to investigate the locomotion gaits through efficient dynamic models capable of accommodating distributed contact forces. We present a complete spatial dynamic model that utilizes a floating-base kinematic model with distributed contact dynamics for a pneumatically powered soft robotic snake. We numerically evaluate the feasibility of the planar and spatial rolling gaits utilizing the proposed model and experimentally validate the corresponding locomotion gait trajectories on a soft robotic snake prototype. We qualitatively and quantitatively compare the numerical and experimental results which confirm the validity of the proposed dynamic model. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 21, 2024
  3. The passive, mechanical adaptation of slender, deformable robots to their environment, whether the robot be made of hard materials or soft ones, makes them desirable as tools for medical procedures. Their reduced physical compliance can provide a form of embodied intelligence that allows the natural dynamics of interaction between the robot and its environment to guide the evolution of the combined robot-environment system. To design these systems, the problems of analysis, design optimization, control, and motion planning remain of great importance because, in general, the advantages afforded by increased mechanical compliance must be balanced against penalties such as slower dynamics, increased difficulty in the design of control systems, and greater kinematic uncertainty. The models that form the basis of these problems should be reasonably accurate yet not prohibitively expensive to formulate and solve. In this article, the state-of-the-art modeling techniques for continuum robots are reviewed and cast in a common language. Classical theories of mechanics are used to outline formal guidelines for the selection of appropriate degrees of freedom in models of continuum robots, both in terms of number and of quality, for geometrically nonlinear models built from the general family of one-dimensional rod models of continuum mechanics. Consideration is also given to the variety of actuators found in existing designs, the types of interaction that occur between continuum robots and their biomedical environments, the imposition of constraints on degrees of freedom, and to the numerical solution of the family of models under study. Finally, some open problems of modeling are discussed and future challenges are identified. 
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  4. Numerous soft and continuum robotic manipulators have demonstrated their potential for compliant operation in highly unstructured environments or near people. Despite their recent popularity, modeling of their smooth bending deformation remains a challenge. For soft continuum manipulators, the widespread, constant curvature approach to modeling is inadequate for modeling some deformations that occur in practice, such as combined bending and twisting deformations. In this paper, we extend the classical Cosserat rod approach to model a variable-length, pneumatic soft continuum arm. We model the deformation of a pneumatically driven soft continuum manipulator, and the model is then compared against experimental data collected from a three degree of freedom, pneumatically actuated, soft continuum manipulator. The model shows good agreement in capturing the overall behavior of the bending deformation, with mean Euclidean error at the tip of the robot of 2.48 cm for a 22 cm long robot. In addition, the model shows good numerical stability for simulating long duration computations. 
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