The ocean covers more than seventy percent of our planet; however, more than eighty percent of our ocean is unobserved and unexplored. This uncharted part of our planet offers huge potential for the industrial sectors, as well as for disruptive, exploration-driven scientific discoveries. Soft robots are compliant, light-weight, and multifunctional, and these properties offer many advantages over existing rigid robots for a diverse range of underwater applications, such as swimming among delicate coral reefs, cleaning near-shore pollutants, collecting marine biological samples, and monitoring underwater structures, etc. However, developing agile, dexterous, and reliable underwater soft robots face substantial challenges in structural design, material choice, sensing, actuation, modeling, and control. Although we have seen progress in areas such as underwater soft robotic grasping, bio-inspired locomotion, and adhesion, the functionalities of current underwater soft robots are still limited compared to existing rigid soft robots. We envision future underwater soft robots will be multi-functional and multi-modal. Similar to its biological counterpart, a single soft robot will need to navigate in unstructured environments, manipulate delicate objects, and interact with neighboring robots to collectively accomplish complex tasks. Consequently, developing such soft robots requires expertise from many areas relating to robotics. This workshop will bring together experts from multi-disciplinary backgrounds to discuss topics involving soft robotic design, fabrication, sensing, actuation, locomotion, and control for aquatic applications. In addition to discussing existing areas related to soft robotics, our workshop aims to inspire new ideas in emerging areas such as multiphase locomotion and hybrid soft-rigid robots. We will invite seminar speakers who discuss robot locomotion in multiple environments by leveraging flow similarity and surface effects. We expect these discussions will further extend the locomotive capability of underwater soft robots. It should be noted that most aquatic species are hybrid soft-rigid systems, and their rigid skeletons play important roles in structural support, protection, and feeding. This workshop will discuss the functions and benefits of various rigid structures in underwater soft robots. We envision the future generation of underwater soft robots will leverage both soft and rigid end effectors to effectively interact with its surrounding environments for locomotion and manipulation. In summary, this workshop aims to foster a synergetic discussion for developing next-generation underwater soft robots by inviting speakers from diverse backgrounds related to robotics. The workshop will not only cover major topics such as design, fabrication, sensing, actuation, and control but also discuss emerging areas such as multiphase locomotion and hybrid soft-rigid systems.
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