Abstract - The Information Society 31(3)

SPECIAL ISSUE: Beyond Industrial Robotics: Social Robots Entering Public and Domestic Spheres


Social Robotics and Societies of Robots

Antonio Bicchi and Guglielmo Tamburrini

The sustainability of social robotics, like other ambitious research programs, depends on the identification of lines of inquiry that are coherent with its visionary goals while satisfying more stringent constraints of feasibility and near-term pay-offs. Within these constraints, this paper outlines one line of inquiry that seems especially viable: development of a society of robots operating within the physical environments of everyday human life, developing there rich robot-robot social exchanges, and yet refraining from any physical contact with human beings. To pursue effectively this line of inquiry, sustained interactions between specialized research communities in robotics are needed. Notably, suitable robotic hand design and control principles must be adopted to achieve proper robotic manipulation of objects designed for human hands that one finds in human habitats. The Pisa-IIT SoftHand project promises to meet these manipulation needs by a principled combination of sensory-motor synergies and soft robotics actuation, which aim at capturing how the biomechanical structure and neural control strategies of the human hand interact so as to simplify and solve both control and sensing problems.


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