IEEE ICMA 2020 Conference
Plenary Talk IV

Soft Robotics Leading to E-kagen Science and Technology

Koichi SUZUMORI, Ph.D.
Professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology

In this presentation, I will discuss three topics on soft robotics.
First, I will talk about my works on soft robots. Since 1986, I have been developing various types of soft actuators; they include pneumatic rubber actuators, thin artificial muscles, functional rubber surfaces, and ion conductive polymer actuators. I will be discussing them and their applications to medical robots, soft power support suits, musculo-skeletal robots, and Giacometti robots.
Then, I will talk about the MEXT KAKENHI project on soft robots in Japan, which was initiated in 2018 with a budget of 1.2 billion yen and a research period of five years. It is an interdisciplinary project, in which approximately 100 researchers and students participate from various fields such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, biology, zoology, medicine and etc. I will talk about several examples of our recent progress.
At the end of my talk, I’d like to discuss about the significance of soft robotics in the history of science and technology. I think soft robotics is a value changer. While traditional robotics has been seeking for power, accuracy, and certainty, soft robotics seems to accept and utilize the contracting features, uncertainty and fuzziness, for example to accomplish jobs easily which traditional robotics has difficulty to do.
Similar trends can be found recently not only in robotics but also in other fields such as material science, computer science, and industries. I will discuss this trend with the help of a Japanese word “E-kagen”, which has two contrasting meanings and I will conclude that soft robotics can be a pioneer of this trend in science and technology.

Prof. Koichi SUZUMORI received his Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from Yokohama National University in 1990. He worked for Toshiba R&D Center from 1984 to 2001, and for Micromachine Center, Tokyo, from 1999 to 2001. He was then a Professor at Okayama University from 2001 to 2014. Since 2014, he has been a Professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology. He has developed various types of new actuators and applied them to new robots including soft robots, micro robots, and tough robots. He established a start-up venture company, s-muscle Co., Ltd., in 2016, which puts his soft thin artificial muscles into practical uses. He is a project leader of the MEXT KAKENHI project on soft robots.
More information can be obtained in

The Robotics Society of Japan Kagawa University Kagawa University The Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers Japan Society for Precision Engineering The Society of Instrument and Control Engineers State Key Laboratory of Robotics and System (HIT) State Key Laboratory of Robotics and System (HIT) Harbin Engineering University University of Electro-Communications University of Electronic Science and Technology of China Changchun University of Science and Technology