Research Project

SoftEnable: Towards Soft Fixture-Based Manipulation Primitives Enabling Safe Robotic Manipulation in Hazardous Healthcare and Food Handling Applications

Type

European Project

Start Date

01/10/2022

End Date

30/09/2026

Project Code

HORIZON-CL4-2021-DIGITAL-EMERGING-01-101070600

Project illustration

Staff

Project Description

Fresh food processing is a labour intensive task requiring workers to operate in hazardous environments such as cold rooms while handling delicate produce. Industry KPIs however include reducing human exposure to these harsh conditions and avoiding injury while maintaining high levels of productivity and employee satisfaction.
These challenges are in principle well-suited for robotics, but the handling of delicate items such as meat and fish requires new types of robotic manipulation primitives to secure the manipulated object safely. 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 generalize 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 (PPE).

Consortium:
- Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan, KTH, Sweden (Coordinator)
- Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt EV, DLR, Germany
- Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial, CSIC, Spain
- Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
- Ocado Innovation Limited, United Kingdom
- Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica, Spain
- Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, Spain

This project is funded by the European Union

Project Publications

Journal Publications

  • C. Torras. Ethics of social robotics: Individual and societal concerns and opportunities. Annual Review of Control, Robotics, and Autonomous Systems, 7(1), 2024, to appear.

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  • D. Blanco-Mulero, O. Barbany, G. Alcan, A. Colomé, C. Torras and V. Kyrki. Benchmarking the sim-to-real gap in cloth manipulation. IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 9(3): 2981-2988, 2024.

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Conference Publications

  • L.M. Lach, R. Haschke, D. Tateo, J. Peters, H. Ritter, J. Borràs and C. Torras. Towards transferring tactile-based continuous force control policies from simulation to robot, 2023 Workshop on Touch Processing: a new Sensing Modality for AI at NeurIPS 2023 , 2023, New Orleans (LA), USA, pp. 10.

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  • L.M. Lach, N. Funk, R. Haschke, H. Ritter, J. Peters and G. Chalvatzaki. Tactile sensing for stable object placing, 2023 Workshop on Touch Processing: a new Sensing Modality for AI at NeurIPS 2023 , 2023, New Orleans (LA), USA, pp. 1-10.

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  • J. Borràs, A. Boix, S. Foix and C. Torras. A virtual reality framework for fast dataset creation applied to cloth manipulation with automatic semantic labelling, 2023 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 2023, London (UK), pp. 11605-11611.

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  • L.M. Lach, N. Funk, R. Haschke, S. Lemaignan, H. Ritter, J. Peters and G. Chalvatzaki. Placing by touching: An empirical study on the importance of tactile sensing for precise object placing, 2023 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2023, Detroit, MI, USA, pp. 8964-8971.

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