Soft Haptic Interaction: Modeling, Design, and Application

A Special Issue organized by
Matteo Bianchi, Hongbin Liu, and Van Ho

Topical  Area

Recently, material softness has become a key ingredient not only for the development of soft robots that can adapt with the environment during grasping and locomotion but also for the realization of efficient soft haptic devices, including soft tactile sensors and soft haptic displays. With the avenue of soft haptics research, we have observed a revolution in all the design stages, including material choice, control and actuation, where morphology (characterized by geometrical and mechanical properties) could serve as a computational mean to ensure a successful interaction with the surrounding. This has determined a paradigm shift in haptics from principle-oriented to embodiment-oriented norms. Indeed, so far traditional haptic devices attempted to seek for novel haptic principles with fixed structure and functions; on the contrary, soft haptic devices quest for reliable structures that are adaptive with respect to different interactive tasks through variable morphology. Under this regard, bio-inspiration or bio-aware design principles could help to devise new system architectures. More specifically, soft haptic devices should detect not only their internal states of deformation, but also be aware of their own body in interaction with its environment. This represents also a key challenge in soft robotics, where interdisciplinary studies in materials science, electro-mechanical design, modeling, perception, and so on, need to be carried out to tackle this interesting issue. This is not surprising: soft haptics and soft robotics are strongly related each other. Indeed, soft haptic devices are ultimately integrated in soft-bodied robots, e.g. within the paradigm of soft manipulation, where adaptable yet robust robotic hands search for tactile sensors that can share their same structural properties, without altering their intrinsic deformability.

For all the reasons above, we believe that soft haptics is now mature to be defined as a new science, with specific and distinct features that deserve a comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach. This special issue aims to contribute to lay down the technological and theoretical foundations of soft haptics, reporting recent advances in the field, that encompass transdisciplinary researches, which include: 1. Science of functional materials, modeling of soft-sensorized bodies, morphological optimization; 2. Novel fabrication methods, integration of sensing and actuating elements, active sensing; and 3. Specific applications of soft haptics in soft-bodied robots for interactive tasks such as soft grasping, locomotion, and human-machine interfaces. Such research is not only relevant to academic community, but also has immediate and potentially high impact in many practical areas such as telerobotics, medical devices, and advanced human-human and human-robot communication through wearables, among the others.

Specific topics of interest are listed below:

  • Morphological computation in haptics
  • Reconfigurable structures for sensing, haptic display
  • Modeling of soft-sensorized bodies
  • Novel functional materials and application in haptics
  • Double sensing of internal deformation and external tactile perception
  • Animal, plant-inspired tactile sensing systems
  • Fabrication of shape-changing haptic devices
  • Tactile perception for soft robots in grasping, locomotion, and interaction

Conference Option

This special issue is proposed as RA-L Conference option (for ICRA 2019). Authors must be willing to present at ICRA 2019 if their paper is accepted by ICRA 2019 program committee.


  • Special Issue Call for Papers: 21 August 2018
  • Special Issue Submission Opens: 21 August 2018
  • Special Issue Submission Closes: 10 September 2018 (same as RA-L/ICRA)
  • First Decision Communicated to Authors: by 5 December 2018
  • Final Decision Communicated to Authors: by 8 February 2019
  • Accepted RAL Papers appear on IEEE Xplore: by 27 February ​2019

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