Special Issue on Open Source and Widely-Disseminated Robot Hardware

Important Dates

Submission Deadline: 15 April 2016 
End of First Review Round and Author Notification: 15 July 2016 
Final Decisions Made: 15 November 2016 
Final Manuscripts Due: 1 December 2016
Publication: March 2017


The open-source movement has already revolutionized a number of industries by empowering end-users to contribute to the products that they need and want, and fueling grass-roots development of projects in completely new areas, as well as their continual improvement. While there have been innumerable successes in software and electronics hardware, open mechanical hardware is taking longer to catch on, in large part due to the complexity and expense associated with fabricating mechanical systems. However, rapid fabrication technologies have improved to the point of being able to produce parts that are strong, robust, and precise enough for practical robotic systems and the many of these machines are available in fabrication facilities at most universities. With these and other technologies, users can more easily fabricate and improve upon open source mechanical hardware without requiring large commitments in terms of cost, time, and domain expertise.
This special issue seeks a collection of papers that address topics in open mechanical robot hardware, including issues related to design, fabrication, and dissemination, among others. Lessons learned in both development
and in operation are pertinent to the discussion. Experimental results are strongly encouraged.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Novel open hardware for research, education, or commercial applications that has been specifically developed for easy and widespread fabrication, assembly, customization, and/or repair
  • Projects that combine substantial mechanical hardware with open software/electronics hardware
  • Research results that strongly rely on open mechanical hardware, such as performance results
  • Novel fabrication techniques that facilitate open hardware fabrication and dissemination

Additionally, it is suggested that papers include, in addition to technical content, discussion of challenges and lessons learned as a result of their efforts in open-source or widely-disseminated research hardware such that researchers can learn from them for future efforts.

Topics that do not speak to issues specific to open-source mechanical hardware are out of scope, including:

  • Projects that are entirely or largely based on open-source software or electronics hardware 
  • Mechanical hardware that is not open, such as commercial hardware

Traditional mechanical hardware that has not been designed specifically for easy implementation (e.g. requiring extensive machining) is likely to be out of scope (even if the designs have been made publically available), unless there is strong evidence of wide-spread adoption/implementation and provides insight for other open-source hardware efforts.

Authors of prospective papers are encouraged to send an abstract or description of the work to the special issue editors to discuss its relevance to the SI scope.

Guest Editors

Aaron Dollar (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) – Yale University
Giorgio Metta (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) – Italian Institute of Technology
Francesco Mondada (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) - EPFL
Alberto Rodriquez (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) – MIT



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

Important Dates

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

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)

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

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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.

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