Jim Bern, Williams College

Robots today remain hidden in factories, welding car parts and placing microchips.  I envision a future where robots assist in our homes, hospitals, and nursing facilities.  These human-centric domains involve a wide range of tasks, demanding robots with an unprecedented blend of traits.  For example, the ideal nursing home robot must be safe; have high strength to help residents out of bed; high precision to help put in their hearing aids; and high robustness to help them eat.  I propose we learn from Nature and fuse the safety and robustness of soft materials with the strength and precision of rigid systems.  This will enable a new generation of graceful machines that are capable of assisting where we need them most.