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PhD Student: Understanding the configuration space of textiles for robotic manipulation (HorizonEurope project SoftEnable)

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Carme Torras Genís


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The Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial (IRI), CSIC-UPC, is seeking a PhD student to work under the framework of the Horizon Europe project SoftEnable.
The PhD student will be supervised by Dr. Júlia Borràs Sol and Prof. Carme Torras, within the Perception and Manipulation Group at IRI

IRI is a Joint University Research Institute participated by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC) that conducts research in human-centered robotics and automatic control. The institute is a key player in the Spanish robotics and automatic control scenes, and a valued participant in a large number of international collaborations including ten ongoing European projects and an ERC Advanced Grant.

ABOUT SoftEnable:
The European Project SoftEnable (Towards Soft Fixture-Based Manipulation Primitives Enabling Safe Robotic Manipulation in Hazardous Healthcare and Food Handling Applications) is an HorizonEurope project that started in October 2022.

SoftEnable proposes a new framework for manipulation actions involving deformable delicate objects based on the notion of soft fixture-enabled manipulation primitives. While fixtures by means of robotic grasps or specifically designed workpiece fixtures are routinely applied in industrial robotics applications involving rigid objects such as metal parts, there is a need to generalize these robotic methods to materials and situations that require the robust manipulation of soft or fragile items. SoftEnable will extend existing robotic grasping and manipulation techniques based on a novel soft fixture-based framework that generalized the notion of caging grasps together with the co-development of a soft fixture-optimized robotic manipulator and tooling for this purpose. Besides the fresh food handling use case, SoftEnable will focus on the healthcare sector where the project will demonstrate how soft fixtures can be utilized by a robotic system assisting health care workers by reducing stress and risk exposure during the handling, preparation, dressing, undressing and safe disposal of personal protective equipment.

Textile manipulation is intrinsically bimanual and its main challenge is how to predict the behaviour of completely shapeless objects when they are manipulated, in order to be able to plan a sequence of actions to accomplish a task, such as folding or covering an object. We want to exploit different gripper designs and environmental fixtures that allow us to conform desired shapes of the pieces of cloth that are being manipulated in a way that is meaningful for different geometric representations of the configuration state of a bimanual system of grippers+cloth+fixtures. The main idea behind this work will be to learn a simplified representation of cloth that enable navigation through different cloth configurations that can be defined semantically (e.g., folded, flat, etc).

To start, we will use a new developed index based on the Gauss Linking Integral [1], in combination with a virtual reality setup that allows us to manipulate different pieces of cloth to learn the relationship between grasp types, manipulation primitives and cloth configuration states, in order to learn both to reason an to navigate on the configuration space of clothes. This will be later extended to different clothes and different geometries of grippers and environmental fixtures.

[1] Coltraro, F., Fontana, J., Amorós, J., Alberich-Carramiñana, M., Borràs, J., & Torras, C. (2022). The dGLI Cloth Coordinates: A Topological Representation for Semantic Classification of Cloth States. arXiv preprint arXiv:2209.09191.

She/he will be hired through a full-time "CSIC predoctoral contract", extendable up to 4 years, and her/his incorporation will take place in 2023.


Qualifications: The candidate is expected to have a Master in robotics, artificial intelligence, computer science or equivalent.
Languages: Fluent in English
Other: Female candidates are strongly encouraged to apply


Please, send your documentation before 31/01/2023 to:

Email: jobs (at)
Address: C/ Llorens i Artigas 4-6, 2a planta. 08028 Barcelona, Spain.
Fax: 93 401 57 50
Note: Please, remember to reference the offer (ID-112) and include the following documentation: CV and academic transcripts