IEEE Robotics and Automation Society IEEE

Special Issue on Soft Robotics and Morphological Computation

Special Issue on Soft Robotics and Morphological Computation

Important Dates

Deadline for Paper Submission: 10 November 2015 
Review Completion and Acceptance Notification: February 2016 
Final Submission: June 2016 
Publication: September 2016


Soft robotics and morphological computation are two recent exciting trends in robotics that are expected to provide novel approaches and high-impact applications. The use of soft and deformable materials in robotics system is crucial to deal with uncertain task and environments such as locomotion in rough terrains, grasping and manipulation of unknown and unstructured objects. Soft robots can be characterized by elastic and deformable bodies, a large number of degrees of freedom, the use of unconventional functional materials, and the involvement of intrinsic passive dynamics. All of these properties could provide significant advantages to adaptability of robotic systems if they are treated properly. The research field of morphological computation, on the other hand, explores the concepts and theories of computation in physical systems, where we investigate how motion control processes can be distributed over informational and physical dynamics. It has been previously shown that, by properly designing the dynamics, physical systems such as soft robotic grippers can benefit from simplified control architectures and improved overall performances. The special issue of “Soft Robotics and Morphological Computation” in IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine (IEEE-RAM) aims to summarize the state of the art of soft robotics and morphological computation research areas, and to provide a venue for the fruitful collaborations between these two research fields. The desired outcome of this special issue is to develop a general consensus about the scientific goals, perspective and challenges of the two research fields, as well as high impact applications. 


We invite review/position papers of topics related to soft robotics, morphological computation and the intersection between the two fields. The topics include but not limited to: 
• Artificial skin and stretchable sensors and electronics 
• Bio-inspired or biomimetic robots based on passive dynamics and unconventional materials 
• Continuum robots, flexible robots, reconfigurable robots 
• Functional materials, morphologies, and assembly for adaptive robotic systems 
• Modeling and simulation of soft bodied robots and structures 
• Natural computation, unconventional computation for adaptive robotic systems 
• Physical human-robot interactions based on soft technologies 
• Wearable robotics

Guest Editors

Fumiya Iida (University of Cambridge), Cecilia Laschi (Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna), Dario Floreano (EPFL), Robert Wood (University), Surya Nurzaman (Monash University), Andre Rosendo (University of Cambridge)

RAM Submission Procedures

The IEEE Robotics & Automation magazine handles only electronic submissions of papers through the RAM Papercept site at the address

Manuscripts should be original, previously unpublished work, and not simultaneously under consideration for publication elsewhere. The material, if accepted, should be properly available for general dissemination to the readership. It is the responsibility of the authors, not the IEEE, to determine whether disclosure of their material requires the prior consent of other parties and, if so, to obtain it. If authors make use of charts, photographs, or other graphical or textual material from previously published material, the authors are responsible for obtaining written permission to use the material in the manuscript.

The IEEE and the Robotics & Automation magazine support the evolutionary publication paradigm, in which early versions of a work may have appeared in conferences. Submission of expanded/improved material from previous conference papers is allowed, provided that the sources are indicated during the submission procedure, they are explicitly cited in the manuscript, and that differences/changes/additions are discussed in the text of the paper. If the copyright holder of the conference paper is not IEEE, authors should also be aware of potential copyright infringement in case of major overlapping with the submitted paper.

Prepare your paper in the form of a self-contained pdf file (with the extension .pdf).  The maximal file size is 2 MB.

  • Follow the link Log in and log in with your PIN (or Login alias) and password. See the section PIN and Login Alias if you do not have a PIN and password.
  • On your Access page, use the linkTest your PDF manuscript file before submissionto check that your file is compliant.
  • On your Access page, follow the linkSubmit a new paper to IEEE-RAM.
  • Choose the kind of submission and follow the menus.  For a special issue, choose the appropriate Guest editor in the submission page. In all other cases submit to the Editor in Chief.
  • Complete the required steps
  • If you have coauthors then you will be asked to enter their PINs. You may look up these PINs on the spot, or create new PINs for them if necessary. Nevertheless it might be a good idea to check ahead of time with your coauthors if they already have PINs, and to ask them to register their PINs themselves if they do not.
  • You must submit a copyright release before the paper can be sent out for review.
  • After successfully submitting the paper you will receive an acknowledgement by e-mail
  • You may expect to see the status of your paper change over time from "Received" to "Under review" and eventually to "Decision pending." You may also update your contact information whenever necessary.

Information for Reviewers

Following an email invitation by a member of the Editorial Board to review a paper for the IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine (RAM), you will be directed by a link to the appropriate page and review form in Papercept. Here, you can accept to review the paper or decline. In the latter case, you may indicate the name of an appropriate reviewer. Providing this suggestion is very much appreciated.

RAM does not use double-blind review. The reviewers are never known to the authors, but the authors are always known to the reviewers. In this way, the paper does not hide relevant aspects (e.g., references to other papers by the same authors) that may be helpful for a balanced and fully informed review.

The paper review procedure of RAM involves a recommendation prepared by the Associate Editor on the basis of peer reviews. The final decision on publication, sustaining or modifying this recommendation, is taken by the Editor-in-Chief.

Please respect the deadline. As an author, you undoubtedly appreciate the importance of minimizing delays.

In your review please keep in mind that RAM is a magazine not a transactions, and this implies that:

  • Lack of novelty or contribution does not disqualify an article
  • RAM accepts articles based on the technical interest of the content and the quality of exposition.
  • RAM is not a venue for short or poor journal style articles.

Please provide detailed comments to the authors to support your recommendation. The following points are suggested for your comments:

  • Is the paper clearly written and well organized?
  • Is this a magazine style article or more of a transactions paper?
  • Is the paper likely to be of interest to RAM’s 10,000 readers?
  • Does the introduction state the purpose of the paper?
  • Does the paper describe a working robot system?
  • Are the references relevant and sufficient? Supply missing references. For RAM the ideal is 20 or fewer references.
  • If the paper is not technically sound, why not?
  • If the paper is too long, how can it be shortened? For RAM the ideal is 8-10 magazine pages which is less than 8 pages in the T-RO template.

Please supply any information that you think will be useful to the author for a revision, for enhancing the appeal of the paper, or for convincing him/her of the weak points or mistakes.

Do not identify yourself or your organization within the review text. The reviewer's recommendation for acceptance or rejection should not be included in the comments to the author.

In your critical comments to author, please be specific. If you suggest that the paper be rewritten, give specific suggestions as to which parts of the paper should be deleted, amplified or modified, and please indicate how.

If the paper has a multimedia attachment (typically, a video clip), please comment on this too. Is it consistent with the paper content? Does it enhance the paper quality? If it is a video, how is the technical quality? Is it free of commercialism?

If you feel that additional material (equations, graphs, tables, etc.) needs to be included in your review, you can attach a pdf file to your review. Please, mention in your comments to the author that you have prepared a pdf file with such material. Some reviewers are used  to attach to the review an annotated/bookmarked version of the paper PDF, to indicate things such as spelling errors or similar. However, the current software we use for removing the identity from the metadata of any attachments will also eliminate these annotations and bookmarks. So, if needed, please include such minor notes within your review.

 Upon completion of the review process of a paper, access to the Associate-Editor decision and to all anonymous reviews will be available through PaperCept for the reviewers of the paper.

Currently, there is one web review form for each paper category. The correct form for the paper in review is automatically loaded in RAM PaperCept. Specific instructions for reviewers are contained also at the beginning of each form.

RAM Advertising

Robotics and Automation science and engineering is the discipline studying and developing systems able to generate and control movements and forces.

Robotics focuses on systems incorporating sensors and actuators that operate autonomously or semi-autonomously in cooperation with humans. Robotics research emphasizes intelligence and adaptability to cope with unstructured environments. 

Automation focuses on systems that operate autonomously, often in structured environments over extended periods, and on the explicit structuring of such environments. Automation research emphasizes efficiency, productivity, quality, and reliability.

Both Robotics and Automation involve designing intelligent machines and systems that are used in manufacturing and service industries, healthcare services including surgery and rehabilitation, laboratory automation, agriculture, space and underwater exploration, disaster relief, entertainment and many other applications to help and support humans or their well-being.

The IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine (RAM) has over 12,000 readers who are the people who drive this remarkable technology. More than half work in basic research and many of the others are top level engineers and decision-makers in industry.
The magazine highlights new concepts in Robotics and Automation that are applied to real-world systems, regularly delivers tutorial and survey papers by distinguished experts in the field, organizes focused special issues on hot topics, and provides a forum for disseminating and discussing emerging trends, novel achievements, and selected news relevant to the development of the whole community active in these fields worlwide.

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On the Shelf

Book Reviews Editor: Alex Simpkins


Robotics is a young and interesting discipline. It is dynamic, interdisciplinary, sometimes difficult to define, and very broad. Because of the varied background of those participants in this discipline, even the most seasoned Robotics experts can expand their understanding of the field. Since the field itself is constantly in flux, continuous learning is actually a necessity in order to remain at the forefront, because there is always something new and exciting of which to become aware. A wise person once said, "a big tree must have strong roots." Now more than ever as the field evolves there is great need to communicate not only our individual ideas but also what fuels our ideas, what the roots are of our understanding. In that way different groups can communicate with each other from a common base. Because this is such a young field, we can have a powerful influence on not only how it is communicated, but also the future of Robotics itself.

System Identification: Theory for the UserSystem Identification: Theory for the User

Lennart Ljung

Review: Robotics & Automation Magazine, IEEE Volume 19, Issue 2


Norbert Weiner

Review: Robotics & Automation Magazine, IEEE Volume 19, Issue 2

An Introduction to CyberneticsAn Introduction to Cybernetics

W. Ross Ashby

Reviewed by: C. Alexander Simpkins Sr., Ph.D. and Annellen M. Simpkins, Ph.D.

Ashby was a founder of cybernetics, and formulated certain concepts of systems that are well regarded today. This book is intended to introduce the basics of cybernetics as a way to characterize machines not just by what they are, their nuts and bolts, but rather to study what machines might do, considered as a set of possibilities. The author uses simple algebra and short, carefully defined sentences to point to observable objects and events. He also expresses his concepts with clear block diagrams and flow charts. Ashby’s book has 14 chapters, divided into three parts:

  1. Mechanisms: including chapters on change, indeterminate machines, machines with input, stability, and the black box.
  2. Variety: including chapters on quantity of variety, transmission of variety, and incessant transmission.
  3. Regulation and Control: including chapters on regulation in biological systems, requisite variety, error controlled regulators, very large systems, and finally, amplification of power, which also applies to intelligence. Ashby believes that by correctly using the principle of selection, even human intelligence can be increased.

The primary question to the cyberneticist is how the machine is functioning. Consider it as a black box. You can learn about the black box by studying what it does. Act on it with input, and observe the output. Then the process can be improved.

You can apply cybernetic principles by correctly considering a system as consisting of interacting coordinated parts. The state of equilibrium of the whole relies on acceptance of equilibrium by each part. Then, the tendency of a well-regulated machine is to return to stability as a whole.

Ashby explains that constraint is an important feature of coordination in machines, as part of control and regulation. But, a system may be too constrained, so that adaptation is not possible. Requisite variation must be given to the machine when learning actions.

For example, imagine that a robot learned to walk a path, balancing on a flat surface. A great deal of constraint of motion could be given to it. Then, imagine the robot is given an uphill, winding path to walk. Adaptation would be necessary to walk successfully. Constraints would have to be relaxed. The behavior of walking would need to have some variation, but not so much variation that the robot falls over, like a drunk. Feedback by a regulator makes it possible for the robot to adapt to changes in environmental conditions. Ashby also explains how error can be used for regulation.

For better understanding, Ashby points the reader to more complex models. A model is useful to the extent that it is representative, as a totality. But a model can be thought of as a set of possible models: a number of simplifications, in a lattice. Closely detailed approximations are at the top, and distant, simpler approximations are at the bottom. Combinations can be ordered and related, giving useful insights for regulating the real system in coordination with the model. From correct regulation, a stable system evolves that can accomplish the intended purpose.

Ashby's principles are important and useful for robotic systems. If only one of the members of the total set of concepts is implemented in a machine, each implementation is linked, as a member, to the total set of cybernetic principles. The machine as a unit will benefit from the relationship. Coordination, regulation, and control of robotic devices can be greatly improved by adapting and applying these principles.

Robot Builder's BonanzaThe Robot Builder's Bonanza - 4th Edition

Gordon McComb

Reviewed by: C. Alexander Simpkins Sr., Ph.D. and Annellen M. Simpkins, Ph.D.

 The Robot Builder's Bonanza was first published in 1987 and has continued to be a popular handbook through each of its four iterations. It is written with a sense of humor and fascinating tidbits. For example, did you know that the word robot derived from a Czech novelist/playwright named Karel Capek who coined the word robata in a 1917 short story? The word robota in the Czech language means "compulsory worker," and what distinguishes a robot from other machines is that it can perform some kind of function or work. McComb defines a robot as any device that mimics human or animal function. It can be autonomous, pre-programmed, or radio controlled.

Eight carefully laid out sections provide a systematic guide to building a stable robot that can navigate, respond, and perform functions. One of the premises of the book is modularity, and the author encourages creative intermixing of different modules developed in the chapters.

Part 1, "The Art and Science of Robot Building" introduces the world of robotics. It delineates the parts involved, from hardware to motors, software, and sensing. Then in Part 2, "Robot Construction" there are 14 chapters on how to build a robot using different materials (primarily wood, metal, and plastic) as well as rapid prototyping and CAD. Also included are clever ways to utilize parts from toys and old electronics. Part 3 gives fundamentals for powering the robot, with chapters on batteries and power systems, choosing the right kind of motor, ways to incorporate DC motors, and how to work with servo motors. Another chapter teaches you to mount motors and wheels for smooth travel. In addition, the book explains methods for producing movement with shape memory alloys. These special metals can return to their original state after they are heated, and so they offer innovations for robotics.

Part 4, "Hands-On Robotic Projects," shows in separate chapters how to build robots with wheels and tracks, legs, arms, and grippers. Then in Part 5, "Robot Electronics," the author provides a concise but clear review of electronics basics, the commonly used components, solder-less breadboards, and how to make your own circuit board.

Parts 6 and 7 are about the brains of the robot, with instructions on electronic control using computers and microprocessors, along with some simple programming concepts and tips. Descriptions of microcontrollers such as Arduino, PICAXE, and the basic stamp give you some of the most popular methods. The book also shows how to interface your hardware with your computer, microcontroller, R/C system, smart phones, tablets, and PDAs. Part 8 explains sensors, navigation, and feedback using robotic touch, vision, and proximity.

A number of appendices give useful mechanical, parts, and electronics references. In addition, there are online tutorials for locating parts, plus lessons, and how-to videos. Some of the deleted chapters from the second edition are also available online, along with bonus downloadable programs with source code examples and application notes.

The Robot Builder's Bonanza has a wide range of information in a user-friendly style. The book has more than enough fine-grained details to allow practical application. For the beginner, this is a well-laid out guide to build a robot. And if you are experienced, you will find this book fills in gaps and stimulates your own creative juices by the sheer breadth and depth of topics covered. We recommend this book as a fundamental reference for any robot enthusiast's bookshelf.


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