RoboTac 2019

IEEE/RSJ International Workshop

New Advances in Tactile Sensation, Perception, and Learning in Robotics: Emerging Materials and Technologies for Manipulation

Important dates

Workshop Date: November 4 , 2019

Paper Submission Deadline: September 1 , 2019

Notification of Acceptance: September 10, 2019

Camera-Ready Deadline: September 20 , 2019

Call for Contribution

Paper submission guidelines

We welcome submissions regarding any robotics application where tactile sensing modalities are used. As we aim to encourage meaningful discussion in the tactile perception and learning domain, work that is unpublished, recently published or under review can be accepted for presentation depending on the novelty, significance and contributions of the work to the workshop theme.

We solicit contributions in the form of extended abstracts (min 2 pages, max 4 pages) in IEEE paper format (author information available here), to be presented at the workshop as posters. Outstanding contributions will be selected for oral presentations.

Accepted papers and eventual supplementary material will be made available on the workshop website. However, this does not constitute an archival publication and no formal workshop proceedings will be made available, meaning contributors are free to publish their work in archival journals or conference.

Please submit your contribution via Easychair

 Award: The outstanding posters and demos will receive awards.


The sense of touch is a crucial capability for us to cope with manipulation related challenges in everyday life. It enables grasping, manipulation, learning, and decision-making based on the information we get from the hundreds of mechanoreceptors distributed over our skin. This sense of touch is a capability, which robotic systems of the future need to provide in order to be able to safely collaborate and physically interact with humans. Tactile sensing is also essential to perform a variety of other tasks including industrial applications, consumer services, and other highly dynamic environments such as assistance and care for elderly, housekeeping, etc.

For many such applications, tactile sensation, perception, and learning play a crucial role. Soft, compliant, and highly integrated systems, often also suitable for large areas (sensor skins), are becoming increasingly relevant and are considered the future of robotic manipulation and interaction. These systems provide the necessary prerequisites for ubiquitous robotics and the integration of tactile sensors into existing robotic systems. This enables safe interaction and co-existence between humans and robots including novel assistive robotic devices. Thus, this year’s workshop puts an emphasis on tactile sensing and the development of sensor devices and integration strategies based on conformal and compliant approaches.

Similar to the sense of touch in humans, robot sensation and the resulting capabilities do not end at the fingertip. Rather, robot sensation can be viewed as a complex process which is based on the interplay of a variety of components.

In this workshop we bring together well-established speakers as well as young talents across all technical disciplines that tactile sensing comprises. We provide a platform for researchers working in diverse fields of robotics such as material and technology development, perception, haptics and also high level tasks such as manipulation strategies and learning, to get an insight into the vast expanse of work done in the respective fields. The idea is to connect excellent researchers from different domains to foster fresh ideas through interdisciplinary discussions while paving the way for future collaborations.

Support and Endorsement

Invited Speakers

Workshop Speakers

Human Sense of Touch

Dr. Lynette Jones
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US


Prof. Etienne Burdet
Human Robotics Lab Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London, UK

Title: Haptic communication between humans and with robots

Abstract: Robotic systems are increasingly used to work in physical contact with humans, but these contact robots have so far made little use of the opportunities of interactive control. We have found recently that mechanically connected humans benefit from the interaction force to exchange task information, identify each other’s control, and improve own performance. This presentation will present these results on human-human behaviour and their computational modelling. It will derive robotic translation of the control principles, enabling sensory augmentation and optimally shared effort between interacting humans or/and robots.

Bio: Dr. Etienne Burdet is Professor and Chair of Human Robotics at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in UK. He is also a visiting Professor at University College London. He holds an MSc in Mathematics (1990), an MSc in Physics (1991), and a PhD in Robotics (1996), all from ETH-Zürich. He was a postdoctoral fellow with TE Milner from McGill University, Canada, JE Colgate from Northwestern University, USA and Mitsuo Kawato of ATR in Japan. Professor Burdet’s group uses an integrative approach of neuroscience and robotics to: i) investigate human motor control, and ii) design efficient systems for training and rehabilitation, which are tested in clinical trials.


Tactile Sensing Technologies

Prof. Ravinder Dahiya
Leader of Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies, University of Glasgow, UK


Prof. Takao Someya
Riken Center for Emergent Matter Science and University of Tokio, Japan

Title: Smart Skins with Stretchable Electronics


Dr. Benjamin Tee
The Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, NUS, Singapore

Bio: Dr. Benjamin C.K. Tee is appointed President’s Assistant Professor in Materials Science and Engineering Department at the National University of Singapore, where he leads the Sensor.AI Labs. He was awarded the prestigious NRF Fellowship in 2017. He obtained his doctoral degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and applied a needs-driven R&D approach as a Stanford Biodesign Global Innovation Fellow in 2014. He has developed and patented several award-winning electronic skin sensor technologies. He is an MIT TR35 Innovator (Global) in 2015 and Singapore National Research Foundation (NRF) Fellow. His research group aims to develop technologies at the intersection of materials science, mechanics, electronics and biology, with a focus on sensitive electronic skins that has tremendous potential to advance global healthcare technologies in an increasingly Artificial Intelligence (AI) era. www.benjamintee.com


Dr. Dae-Hyeong Kim
Translational Flextronics Group, Seoul National University, South Korea

Title:  Bioinspired curved image sensor array

Abstract: Although recent efforts in device designs and fabrication strategies have resulted in meaningful progresses to the goal of soft optoelectronics, significant challenges still remain in fabricating a soft form of the image sensor array, particularly in the case of system level integration with inspiration from the human eye. In this presentation, we report our recent achievement in a high-density soft curved image sensor (CurvIS) array by using a heterostructure of inherently soft 2D materials (MoS2 and graphene), by employing an ultrathin device structure, and by applying strain-isolating/-releasing array designs. This high-density soft CurvIS array with the single-lens optics successfully acquires pixelated images without optical aberration and infrared noises. We also present a human-eye-inspired soft implantable optoelectronic device based on the developed CurvIS array. Theoretical analysis in conjunction with supporting experiments corroborates the validity of the proposed soft materials and device designs.

Bio: Dae-Hyeong Kim obtained B.S. and M.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from Seoul National University, Korea, in 2000 and 2002, respectively. He received Ph. D. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2009. From 2009 to 2011, he was a post-doctoral research associate at University of Illinois. He joined Seoul National University in 2011 and is currently an associate professor in the School of Chemical and Biological Engineering of Seoul National University. He has published more than 75 papers and 25 international and domestic patents. He has been recognized with several awards including George Smith Award (2009), MRS Graduate Student Award (2009), Green Photonics Award (2011), TR 35 award (2011), Hong Jin-ki Creative Award (2015), SCEJ Award (2016), and Korea Young Scientist Award (2017).


Prof. Hubert Zangl
Institute of Smart System Technologies, Sensors and Actuators Lab, Alpen-Adria-Universitaet Klagenfurt, Austria

Title: Integration of Tactile and Proximity Perception with Capacitive Sensing Technologe

Abstract: The combination of Tactile Perception and Proximity Perception technologies has the potential to play an essential role for service, industrial robotics, HRC, compliant robotics applications and even bio-inspired robotics in the near future as it allows for novel control strategies for exploration, grasping, manipulation and interaction with humans. However, sensor elements for both perception tasks need to share the space when they are integrated e.g. in a sensor skin. The sensor elements of capacitive sensors are just conductive areas that can be extremely thin, bendable and stretchable and can be used for both, proximity and tactile perception. Beyond that, the sensor elements may also be part of a wireless communication and even of energy harvesting. The presentation will address such integration aspects and benefits of the combination of Tactile and Proximity Perception.

Bio: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Hubert Zangl received the Dipl.Ing. degree in telematics, the Dr.Tech. degree in electrical en-gineering, and the Venia Docendi for sensors and instrumentation from Graz University of Technology (TUG), Graz, Austria, in 2001, 2005, and 2009, respectively. From 2010 to 2013 he was an Associate Professor for Sensors and Instrumentation, Institute of Electrical Measurement and Measurement Signal Processing, TUG. Since September 2013 he is a Professor chairing Sensors and Actuators at the Institute of Smart System Technologies, Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Austria. His current research interests focus on design and optimization of smart sensors and actuators, robustness and reliability of sensors and actuators, sensor signal processing, autarkic wireless sensors, energy harvesting and applications in robot sensing and IoT.

Perception, Interaction, & Learning

Prof. Bruno Siciliano

Director of PRISMA Lab and  ICAROS Center Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II , Italy

Title: Tactile Sensing and Manipulation in Medical Applications

Abstract:Tactile sensing and bio-inspired design of human-like tools will enhance manipulation skills and humans’ abilities reproduction. Besides humanoid robots and prosthetics applications, other areas such as minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery could benefit from the use of suitably designed and sensorized tools with reconfiguratio capabilities. This talk will present the PRISMA Hand II, an anthropomorphic prosthetic hand endowed with force sensors at the fingertips. Using novel COmpliant Rolling-contact Element (CORE) joints, the hand has a simple structure and exhibits compliance in multiple directions. A surgical tool, the MUSHA Hand II will be presented as well. The tool has three miniature underactuated fingers composed of multiple vertebrae and internal elastic elements; the six degrees of actuation allow the hand to be configured to grasper mode or re-tractor mode for different organ manipulation tasks.Three-dimensional force sensors are integrated into the fingertips to provide the surgeon with the sense of touch and force information.


Prof. Fanny Ficuciello

Title: Tactile Sensing and Manipulation in Medical Applications

Abstract: Tactile sensing and bio-inspired design of human-like tools will enhance manipulation skills and humans’ abilities reproduction. Besides humanoid robots and prosthetics applications, other areas such as minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery could benefit from the use of suitably designed and sensorized tools with reconfiguratio capabilities. This talk will present the PRISMA Hand II, an anthropomorphic prosthetic hand endowed with force sensors at the fingertips. Using novel COmpliant Rolling-contact Element (CORE) joints, the hand has a simple structure and exhibits compliance in multiple directions. A surgical tool, the MUSHA Hand II will be presented as well. The tool has three miniature underactuated fingers composed of multiple vertebrae and internal elastic elements; the six degrees of actuation allow the hand to be configured to grasper mode or re-tractor mode for different organ manipulation tasks.Three-dimensional force sensors are integrated into the fingertips to provide the surgeon with the sense of touch and force information.

Bio: Fanny Ficuciello received the Laurea degree magna cum laude in  Mechanical Engineering and the Ph.D. degree in Computer and Automation  Engineering both at the University of Naples Federico II in 2007 and  2010 respectively. From September 2009 to March 2010 she was a visiting scholar in the Control Engineering Group at the University of  Twente (Netherlands). Currently, she is Assistant Professor of  Industrial Bioengineering at the University of Naples Federico II. Her  research activity is focused on biomechanical design and bio-aware  control strategies for anthropomorphic artificial hands, grasping and  manipulation with hand/arm and dual arm robotic systems, human-robot  interaction control, variable impedance control and redundancy  resolution strategies. Recently she is involved also on surgical  robotics research projects, as a member of the ICAROS center (Interdepartmental Center for Advances in Robotic Surgery) of the  University of Naples Federico II. From 2008 she is member of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society and from 2017 she received the upgrade to IEEE Senior Member. From 2018 she is in the Technology Committee of  the European Association of Endoscopic Surgery (EAES). Currently she serves as associate editor for Journal of Intelligent Service Robotics  (JIST) and for Transactions on Robotics (T-Ro).


Prof. Charles Kemp
Director of Healthcare Robotics Lab, Georgia Tech, US


Dr. Hongbin Liu
Center for Robotics Research, King’s College London, UK


Prof. Hyungpil Moon
Robotics and Intelligent Systems  Lab, Sungkyunkwan University, South Korea

Title: Delicate and Firm Tactile Sensing Toward Dexterous Manipulation

Bio: Hyungpil Moon is an Associate Professor and the director of Robotics Engineering Research Center(RERC) at Sungkyunkwan University(SKKU), Korea.
Hyungpil received BS and MS degrees in mechanical engineering from POSTECH, Korea and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2005. Before joining SKKU, he was a post-doctoral fellow with the Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University.
He was an Editor of ICRA, a technical editor of IEEE/ASME Trans. Mechatronics, and the Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Korea Robotics Society. He is now serving as a co-chair of IEEE RAS TC on Robotic Hand, Grasping and Manipulation and an associate editor of Intelligent Service Robotics. He is also a creator of the Autonomous Drone Racing Competition.
He leads the RISE LAB in RERC researching dexterous manipulation, task-motion planning, and autonomous drones.  


Dr. Michael Wuertenberger 

Vice President and Director of AI and Robotics Center of Excellence tat he  BMW Research, Germany

Title: Vehicle Interiors as Sensate Environments – Tactile Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Transforming the Future in-Car Experience

Abstract: A vehicle’s interior can already now be considered a highly interactive sensate environment. With the advent of highly automated driving, even more emphasis will be on this smart space and the corresponding user experience. New interior layouts become possible, with the attention shifting from the driver to the wellbeing and comfort of rider passengers in highly reconfigurable interior layouts. Smart materials, an array of sensors, robotic mechatronics, and intelligent perception will provide vehicles with more capabilities to sense and interact with their human counterparts. Tactile intelligence  in particular will add an exciting new modality and help address challenges of safe human-robot coexistence.


Grasping and Manipulation

Prof. Oliver Brock
Professor of Robotics in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Technische Universität Berlin, Germany


Bio: Oliver Brock is the Alexander-von-Humboldt Professor of Robotics in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Technische Universität Berlin in Germany, which is a German University of Excellence. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in the year 2000 and held post-doctoral positions at Rice University and Stanford University. He was an Assistant Professor and Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, before to moving back to the Technische Universität Berlin in 2009. The research of Brock’s lab, the Robotics and Biology Laboratory, focuses on robot intelligence, mobile manipulation, interactive perception, grasping, manipulation, soft material robotics, interactive machine learning, deep learning, motion generation, and the application of algorithms and concepts from robotics to computational problems in structural molecular biology. OliverBrock is the coordinator of the Research Center of Excellence “Science of Intelligence”. He is an IEEE Fellow and was president of the Robotics: Science and Systems Foundation from 2012 until 2019.



Prof. Antonio Bicchi
Professor of Robotics at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia and Università di Pisa, Italy


Bio: Antonio Bicchi is Professor of Robotics at the University of Pisa, and Senior Scientist at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa. He graduated from the University of Bologna in 1988 and was a postdoc scholar at M.I.T.  Artificial Intelligence lab in 1988–1990.  He teaches  Robotics and Control Systems in the Department of Information Engineering  (DII) of the University of Pisa. He leads the Robotics Group at the  Research Center “E. Piaggio” of the University of Pisa since 1990, where he was Director from 2003 to 2012. He is the head of the SoftRobotics Lab for Human Cooperation and Rehabilitation at IIT in Genoa. Since 2013 he serves ad Adjunct Professor at the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering of Arizona State University.

His main research interests are in Robotics, Haptics, and Control Systems in general. He has published more than 500 papers on international journals, books, and refereed conferences.  He was Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, which he founded in 2015. He has organized and chaired the first WorldHaptics Conference(2005) and the first Automatica.it symposium (2011). He is Editor of the book series “Springer Briefs on Control, Automation and Robotics,” and has served in the Int.l J. Robotics Research, the IEEE Trans. on Robotics and Automation, IEEE Trans. Automation Science and Engineering, and IEEE RAS Magazine. He was  Program Chair of the IEEE Int.. Conf. Robotics and Automation (ICRA’16), General Chair of  the Int. Symposium on Robotics Research (ISRR’ 2015), Hybrid Systems: Computation and Control (HSCC 2007), and Robotics: Science and Systems (2019). He was Editor in Chief of the Conference Editorial Board for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS), Vice President for Publications (2013-2014), for Membership (2006-2007), and as Distinguished Lecturer (2004-2006) of IEEE RAS. He served as the President of the Italian Association or Researchers in Automatic Control (2012-2013). He is the recipient of several awards and honors. For his research on human and robot hands, the European Reserach Council awarded him with four grants, including an Advanced Grant in 2012 and a Synergy Grant in 2018. Antonio Bicchi is a Fellow of IEEE since 2005.


Prof. Alberto Rodriguez Garcia
 Prof. in Robotics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US

Title: A vision for tactile dexterity and reactive manipulation

Abstract: Tactile sensing plays a privileged role in the manipulation chain: it is in direct contact with the world, potentially offering direct observations of shape, motion and force at contact. Robot’s limited tactile reasoning, however, is one of the main limitations of current robotic manipulation systems, and a long-standing challenge in the robotics research community. After decades of advances in sensing instrumentation and processing power, basic questions remains: How should robots make effective use of sensed contact information? How do we plan interactions that render useful tactile information? How de we exploit tactile feedback to simplify planning and control? In this talk I will describe current work on developing a reactive manipulation planning framework to handle objects using tactile feedback.

Bio: Alberto Rodriguez is an Associate Professor (without tenure) at the Mechanical Engineering Department at MIT. Alberto graduated in Mathematics (’05) and Telecommunication Engineering (’06) from the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, and earned his PhD (’13) from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Alberto has received the Best Student Paper Awards at conferences RSS’11, ICRA’13, and RSS’18, the Best Cognitive Paper Award at IROS’18, and has been finalist for best paper awards at IROS’16 and IROS’18. He has lead Team MIT-Princeton in the Amazon Robotics Challenge between 2015 and 2017, and is recipient of the Amazon Research Award. He has also received the 2018 Best Manipulation System Paper Award and has been finalist to the 2018 Best Manipulation Technical Paper Award from Amazon. He leads the Manipulation and Mechanisms Lab at MIT (MCube) researching autonomous dexterous manipulation, robot automation, and end-effector design.


Prof. Alexander Schmitz

Title:  Distributed 3D tactile sensing for robotic grasping and manipulation

Abstract: I will present an overview of the research in our lab on developing tactile sensors for robot hands, grippers and arms, and using those sensors for tasks such as grasp stability analysis and dexterous in-hand manipulation. In particular, we will present a skin sensor system, which is soft, can cover various parts of the robot hand and measure force in 3-axis. Each 3-axis sensor is about 4x4x4mm3 big and has digital output. 272 of such 3-sensors have been used to cover all segments of the Allegro hand fingers, with minimal wiring. We will also present skin sensors for safe robot arms.

Bio:  Alexander Schmitz is an Associate Professor (without tenure) at the Sugano Lab, Waseda University, Japan. He is also one of the founders of www.xelarobotics.com, which sells tactile sensors. He received his master’s degree with honors from the University of Vienna, Austria, in 2007, and PhD degree from the University of Sheffield, England in 2011. He performed his PhD research as part of a joint location program with the Italian Institute of Technology, Italy. His research interests include tactile sensing, human symbiotic robotics, and robotic object handling. He has applied for 11 patents. He has received a grant of 117 million JPY from the JST START Program in 2016.


Prof. Sami Haddadin
Director of Munich School of Robotic and Machine Vision, German



Workshop Program

Workshop Date: November 4

9:00 – 9:05Welcome,
Dr. Mohsen Kaboli

Human Sense of Touch

09:05 – 09:25
Dr. Lynette Jones
09:25 – 09:45Prof. Etienne Burdet

Sensing Technologies

09:45 – 10:05 Prof. Ravinder Dahiya
10:05 – 10:25 Prof. Takao Someya
10:25 – 10:45 Poster Teasers A
10:45 – 11:15 Coffee break and Poster presentation and
Demo Session
11:15 – 11:35Dr. Benjamin Tee
11:35 – 11:55Dr. Dae-Hyeong Kim
11:55 – 12:15Prof. Hubert Zangl
12:15 – 12:30Poster Teasers B
12:30 – 14:00 Lunch, Poster presentation, and Demo Session

Exploration & Objects’ Perception in Robotics

14:00 – 14:20 Prof. Bruno Siciliano / Prof. Fanny Ficuciello
14:20 – 14:40 Prof. Charles Kemp
14:40– 15:00 Dr. Hongbin Liu
15:00 – 15:20 Prof. Hyungpil Moon
15:20 – 15:40 Dr. Michael Wurtenberger
15:40 – 16:10Coffee break and Poster and Demo Session

Grasping & Manipulation

16:10 – 16:30 Prof. Oliver Brock
16:30 – 16:50 Prof. Antonio Bicchi
16:50 – 17:10Prof. Alberto Rodriguez Garcia
17:10 – 17:30Coffee break
17:30 – 17:50 Prof. Alexander Schmitz
17:50 – 18:10 Prof. Sami Haddadin
18:10 – 18:45 Pannel Discussion
19:00 – 22:00 Workshop Dinner


Workshop Organizers

  • Dr.-Ing. Mohsen Kaboli, Senior research scientist in Visio-Tactile Intelligence and Robotics at the BMW research, Munich, Germany.
  • Prof. Lisa-Marie Faller, Professor of Robotics, Faculty of Engineering & IT, Carinthia University of Applied Sciences: FH Kärnten, Europastraße 4, 9524 Villach, Austria.
  • Dr. Lorenzo Natale, Director of the Humanoid Sensing and Perception Lab, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), Italy.
  • Dr. Robert Haschke, Senior Research Scientist and Group leader in Neuroinformatics Institute, Bielefeld University, Germany.
  • Prof. Ravinder Dahiya, Professor of Electronics and Nanoengineering and EPSRC Research Fellow in the School of Engineering, University of Glasgow, UK.