New post-docs dream of textile robotics

Earlier this year, one post-doc was appointed at the University of Skövde (HiS) in the group of professor Tom Ziemke, and two post-docs were appointed at the University of Borås (HB), one in the group of professor Lars Hallnäs and one in the group of professor Vincent Nierstrasz. They are active in the research area Design, textiles and sustainable development, which is part of the strategic collaboration between the University of Skövde and the University of Borås.

The project is executed by the project team which currently consists of:
From the University of Borås: Anja Lund, Katharina Bredies, Lars Hallnäs, Kim Bolton, Mikael Skrifvars and Vincent Nierstrasz.
From the University of Skövde: 
Waseem Tahir, Gauss Lee, Dan Högberg, Paul Hemeren, Tom Ziemke and Ulf Stigh.
The project management team is formed by prof. dr. ir. Vincent Nierstrasz (project leader), dr. Dan Högberg (vice-project leader), prof. dr. Kim Bolton and dr. Paul Hemeren.

Textile sensors, electronic textiles and robotics. The three post-docs  Anja Lund, Katharina Bredies and Gauss Lee have different backgrounds in the area of smart materials. They have identified mutual interests and taken up the challenge of multidisciplinary collaboration. 

"We will build a common foundation and define a number of research questions that our joint research could meet. One should not underestimate the time required to build a team; to understand each other’s perspectives and motivations. But it was not difficult to find great opportunities in our different backgrounds", says Anja Lund, who conducts research in textile sensors and is expert in this field.

Two mutual interests identified are the use of textile sensors to control a robot, and soft robots. Textile sensors are materials that can register e.g. movements and translate them to electric signals. The aim of using textiles as a means for communication between humans and robots, is that a comfortable sensor garment worn by a human, could give the robot data input allowing it to understand and even predict the needs of the human. First experiments have already been carried out, and in a planned demonstration a textile sensor-glove will be used to instruct a human-like robot.

In your wildest dreams, what will be the outcome of your collaboration?
"A textile robot", Katharina Bredies replies quickly. "A soft robot that can move, sense its surroundings, and be controlled by electronic textiles and textile sensors".
Anja Lund agrees, enthusiastically.
"But this vision will not be reality in the two years we have. Our goal will be to develop a few functional prototypes that can demonstrate the potential of our joint expertise, and motivate a continued collaboration", she says.
The researchers do not want to define tha practical application of the robot. They explain that the practical use of  emerging technologies can often be best specified after several demonstrations of the technology.
"A textile robot could probably be useful for example in rehabilitation as well as for really beautiful interior decoration", says Katharina Bredies.

About the collaboration:
The collaboration in Design, textiles and sustainable development between HB and HiS concentrates on Smart Textiles and will focus on ICT-solutions in the development and design of sustainable smart textiles, with applications typically in healthcare, sport, automotive and protective personal equipment. The smart textiles to be developed and designed should be able to monitor and to collect i.e. physical, emotional and/or environmental data. These research activities should result in new research initiatives and projects proposals (national as well as international), thereby strengthening the platform.
Read more at the collaborations web page. 

The research area will be further strengthened with the appointment of two post-docs. Waseem Tahir started the 1st of November in the group of professor Ulf Stigh at the University of Skövde, and one post-doc will be appointed in the group of professor Kim Bolton at the University of Borås in the coming months. Their focus will be on modelling and simulation of materials and composite structures.

"This will provide an opportunity to deepen our understandings of how to tailor the properties of our sensors and robots, as well as structures for composites and protective wear", says Anja Lund.