The coordinator of the REMODEL project Prof. Gianluca Palli participates in the organization of a collection of articles on Frontiers in Neurorobotics about the research topic “Deformable Object Manipulation”

Manipulation of deformable objects is crucial for countless applications in household, caregiving, industrial, and surgical robotics. However, deformable objects violate many fundamental assumptions of rigid object manipulation, requiring different approaches to the problems of perception, planning, grasp selection, and control. Shape estimation can already be a major challenge, and planning further requires an understanding of how an object’s shape changes under manipulation. High computational cost limits what we can do with simulation under practical time constraints, and deformable object simulation is particularly susceptible to the “reality gap”.

From a more theoretical angle, the topic is fascinating because humans manipulate deformables with ease, on basis of hard-to-formalize intuitions. Exploring these skills may help us understand how humans cognitively handle sub-symbolic, high-dimensional problem spaces.

This topic aims to weave together some of the many threads of research in this field in a collection of work on recent advances. We naturally welcome work representing progress on the field’s open problems, as well as novel approaches with future potential. With an eye toward practical application and integration of deformable object manipulation into broader robotic intelligence, we welcome integrative work on deformable object handling in the context of scene understanding and task understanding. Finally, in consideration of the long-term goal of obtaining more human-like manipulation skills, we welcome work elucidating the cognitive processes humans apply in deformable object manipulation with potential application to robotics.

Interested authors can find more details about this research topic here.