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Helmut Hauser is a Lecturer in Robotics at the University of Bristol and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory. His research is focused on morphological computation and embodiment, especially in the context of soft robotics. He is interested in understanding the underlaying principles of how complex physical bodies of biological systems are used to facilitate learning and controlling tasks, and how these principles can be employed to design better robots. Before joining the University of Bristol, he was a postdoc at Rolf Pfeifer's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Zurich, where he was the project manager of the EU project LOCOMORPH and where he participated in a number of other projects like OCTOPUS, SMART-E and NCCR Robotics. He is also involved in the Coordination Action RoboSoft (http://www.robosoftca.eu), which has received funding to form a community around the emerging and exciting field of soft robotics. Besides robots, Helmut is also passionated about productivity. On his blog "Work Smart and be Remarkable - Productive Academia" (www.worksmartandberemarkable.com) he writes about how to use technology to be more creative and to get things done with less stress.



Why are spiders’ webs so complex? Might they have other functionalities besides being a simple trap? One of the most interesting answers to this question is that spiders might use their webs as computational devices.

 The Jaeger-Lipson coffee balloon gripper. Its soft end effector adapts itself to the object it grasps. Source: John Amend
The Jaeger-Lipson coffee balloon gripper. Its soft end effector adapts itself to the object it grasps. Source: John Amend

Soft robots are versatile, often much safer, more energy-efficient, robust and resilient than their more rigid counterparts. But one of the biggest challenges facing soft robotics is control – often, classical approaches don’t apply. The answer may lie in morphological computation, an idea that stems from biological systems using their bodies to control basic actions.

by   -   April 28, 2015
Baymax, Chris Atkeson and Hiro from Disney's Big Hero 6. Source: Chris Atkeson
Baymax, Chris Atkeson and Hiro from Disney’s Big Hero 6. Source: Chris Atkeson

Baymax, the lovable, inflatable robot star of Disney’s recent hit, Big Hero 6, is far from a movie fantasy. With their soft cushiony bodies, robots like Baymax have very real prospects as future care-givers, space-travellers and more. Robohub’s Helmut Hauser spoke to the man who inspired Baymax – Chris Atkeson, Professor of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University – about the hard science behind soft robotics.