• 23 February 2021 – Dr Fumiya Iida’s interview on the Soft Robotics research (IEEE RAS Technical Committee web-site) LISTEN HERE
  • 16 February 2021 – Cambridge engineers unveil Digital Twin to support the ‘future of farming’. READ MORE


  • 24 September 2021 – OHMC 2 PPF event
  • 16 October 2021 – Agriforwards CDT New Cohort Welcome Event
  • 05 November 2021 – Post-graduate Open Day – Department of Engineering


In this research project BIRL students investigated the dexterity of human manipulation capabilities by using a soft robotic hand. They built a robotic hand based on the inspiration from the real human’s, which is capable of handling chopsticks for grasping variations of objects.

The robotic hand is made of soft structures, by using anthropomorphic configurations of bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons, that are connected to a minimum set of motor components, i.e. only four servomotors.

By developing a minimalistic physics model of chopstick handling and its simulation experiments, researchers have identified one of the necessary conditions of actuation which enables the robot to grasp variations of small objects, those with different shape, size and weight.

Cambridge researchers from the BIRL are studying the interaction between robots and humans – and teaching them how to do the very difficult things that we find easy.

Title image credit- Robert Markowitz – NASA – JSC

The goal of the €3 million Self-healing soft robot (SHERO) project, funded by the European Commission, is to create a next-generation robot made from self-healing materials (flexible plastics) that can detect damage, take the necessary steps to temporarily heal itself and then resume its work – all without the need for human interaction.

Led by the University of Brussels (VUB), the research consortium includes the Department of Engineering (University of Cambridge), École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la ville de Paris (ESPCI), Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), and the Dutch Polymer manufacturer SupraPolix.

As part of the SHERO project, the Cambridge team, led by Dr Fumiya Iida from the Department of Engineering are looking at integrating self-healing materials into soft robotic arms.

(Video courtesy of and copyrighted to VUB/Brubotics)

The Bio-Inspired Laboratory research looks at how robotics can be improved by taking inspiration from nature, whether that’s learning about intelligence, or finding ways to improve robotic locomotion.

A robot requires between ten and 100 times more energy than an animal to do the same thing. Iida’s lab is filled with a wide array of hopping robots, which may take their inspiration from grasshoppers, humans or even dinosaurs.

One of his group’s developments, the ‘Chairless Chair’, is a wearable device that allows users to lock their knee joints and ‘sit’ anywhere, without the need for a chair.

(Video and text courtesy of the University of Cambridge Press office)

BIRL YouTube Channel

Watch our experiments

IEEE RAS TC of Soft Robotics
Agriforwards CDT project at Cambridge — part of the EPSRC CDT for Agri-Food Robotics (see below)
EPSRC CDT Agri-Food Robotics
Department of Engineering
University of Cambridge