Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Antagonistic actuation and stiffness control in soft inflatable robots

Soft robots promise solutions for a wide range of applications that cannot be achieved with traditional, rigid-component robots. A key challenge is the creation of robotic structures that can vary their stiffness at will, for example, by using antagonistic actuators, to optimize their interaction with the environment and be able to exert high forces.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Octopus-inspired robot.


  1. 1.

    Nakajima, K. et al. A soft body as a reservoir: case studies in a dynamic model of octopus-inspired soft robotic arm. Front. Comput. Neurosci. 7, 92 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Stilli, A., Wurdemann, H. A. & Althoefer, K. in 2014 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems 2476–2481 (Chicago, IL, USA, 2014).

  3. 3.

    Kier, W. M. The musculature of coleoid cephalopod arms and tentacles. Front. Cell Dev. Biol. 4, 10 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Deimel, R. & Brock, O. A novel type of compliant and underactuated robotic hand for dexterous grasping. Int. J. Robotics Res. 35, 161–185 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Kang, R. et al. Design, modeling and control of a pneumatically actuated manipulator inspired by biological continuum structures. Bioinspir. Biomim. 8, 036008 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Maghooa, F. et al. in 2015 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2556–2561 (Seattle, WA, USA, 2015).

Download references


The work described in this paper was partially funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission under grant agreement 287728 in the framework of EU project STIFF-FLOP.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kaspar Althoefer.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Althoefer, K. Antagonistic actuation and stiffness control in soft inflatable robots. Nat Rev Mater 3, 76–77 (2018).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing