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Shaping the future of robotics through materials innovation

New classes of functional soft materials show promise to revolutionize robotics. Now materials scientists must focus on realizing the predicted performance of these materials and developing effective and robust interfaces to integrate them into highly functional robotic systems that have a positive impact on human life.

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Fig. 1: Materials innovations that will shape the future of robotics.
Fig. 2: Realizing the predicted performance of emerging technologies.
Fig. 3: Interfaces between components inside a robot and between a robot and its environment.

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Acknowledgements

P.R. and C.K. acknowledge funding by the Max Planck Society, Germany. Y.K. acknowledges funding through scholarships from ILJU Academy and Culture Foundation and MIT School of Engineering MathWorks Fellowship. X.Z. acknowledges funding from the National Institutes of Health (no. 1R01HL153857-01) and the National Science Foundation (no. EFRI-1935291).

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C.K. developed the concept of the article. P.R. and C.K. led and coordinated the writing of the article. All authors contributed to the content and writing of the article.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christoph Keplinger.

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Competing interests

P.R. and C.K. are listed as inventors of patents that cover fundamentals and basic designs of HASEL actuators as well as methods of fabrication. Y.K. and X.Z. are listed as inventors of patents that cover fundamental principles and fabrication techniques for 3D-printed magnetic soft actuators and magnetically steerable soft continuum robots. X.Z. is a co-founder of SanaHeal Inc., a start-up company commercializing bioadhesives. R.F.S. is listed as an inventor for patents regarding stretchable lightguide-based optical sensing platforms, and is a co-founder of Organic Robotics Corporation, which licenses these patents. C.K. is a co-founder of Artimus Robotics, a start-up company commercializing HASEL actuators.

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Peer review information Nature Materials thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Rothemund, P., Kim, Y., Heisser, R.H. et al. Shaping the future of robotics through materials innovation. Nat. Mater. 20, 1582–1587 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-021-01158-1

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