Re-form : Morphable Technology to Transform Interactions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Engineering Mathematics


The creation of controllable shape-shifting materials and structures is an exciting area of research that will allow for and inspire the development of highly adaptable and versatile devices. In robotics this is particularly relevant since being able to be soft and morphable completely changes the way in which a robot can interact with its environment or agents in that environment. We see shape shifting in nature where it allows animals with such capabilities to respond to stimuli in ways that a rigid-bodied creature could not. An example of this is the famous ability Octopi have of being able to squeeze through a hole that is less than 10% of their normal body diameter. With these concepts in mind, my PhD will investigate new ways of creating morphable technology with a focus on how this affects the responses of people using it. I am interested in the way that people interact with their surroundings, particularly their behaviour in relation to objects, interfaces and robotic devices both as individuals and as groups. There are many potential uses of robots with shape-shifting or morphing capabilities for the purpose of creating novel means of interaction. By conducting research into morphing multi-sensory interfaces my aim is to explore new technologies that can change the way we connect with the world around us, both physical and virtual. This can have many applications, not just in the world of Human-Robot Interaction but also for example in VR, AR, immersive performance and assistive devices. Through prototyping and experimentation I will explore possible hardware to use as a basis for modelling and experimenting with interactions and behaviours. I am inspired by the robot origami (robogami) of Jamie Paik at EPFL [1][2], haptic systems of Allison Okamura at Stanford [3] and self-reconfiguring robots of Daniela Rus at MIT [4] alongside many others in this field. A direction of interest for this research is in using such technologies to influence or adapt patterns of behaviour in order to encourage beneficial behaviours in users such as exercising or recycling
or triggering affective responses to improve mood and wellbeing. This could lead to experiments with participants during their daily routines or the creation of an interactive experience to assess behaviour adaptations and patterns that arise from these interactions. Inspired by the interactive experiences, soft robotics and dynamic materials of Caroline Zheng [5] and Amy Winters [6] at RCA, as well as the synthetic biology and design of Daisy Ginsberg [7], an extra dimension to this research will be developed through a multi-disciplinary approach and engagement with artistic practice.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509619/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1953736 Studentship EP/N509619/1 01/10/2017 30/06/2021 Alice Haynes
EP/R51245X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021
1953736 Studentship EP/R51245X/1 01/10/2017 30/06/2021 Alice Haynes