Soft Robotic Testbeds for Physics Simulator Validation, Closed Loop Control, and Comparative Biomechanics
While robots made of flexible and deformable materials, commonly called soft robots, have shown potential to function more autonomously in unstructured environments, most such robots remain confined to the lab and tethered to a benchtop power supply. To develop more autonomous mobile soft robots that can function outside of the lab, we require more sophisticated modeling, simulation, and control tools as well as soft robotic testbeds that are unthethered and of sufficient maturity and complexity to develop and validate these tools. Autonomous soft robot development can also be aided by better understanding how highly flexible animals move and the connections between physics, morphology, and control. This thesis presents several mobile, untethered soft robotics testbeds that are used to validate physics simulators, to develop novel controllers, and to study the interplay between morphology and locomotion for underwater walking organisms and robots. These tools, and the robots themselves, enable the design, development, and deployment of more autonomous soft robots in highly uncertain environments.
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)