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RCA Robotics Laboratory

Combining creative techniques, mechanisms and functions from nature and art, and approaches from the experimental sciences, we develop new robotic technologies enhancing access, safety and performance in a wide range of industrial applications.

The Robotics lab at the Royal College of Art was established in 2016 to provide a focal point for research into robotics within an art and design environment.

The lab hosts post-doctoral researchers and doctoral students, and undertakes design-led robotics research projects funded by research grants and contracts.

Robotics research at the RCA investigates the application of new soft materials, flexible electronics, advanced communication and manufacturing technologies in the construction of robots, to enhance their abilities for operation in varied environments while making them interact with humans more effectively against a range of criteria, not limited to technical performance.

Research Themes

Soft Robotics: developing robotic systems that  interact with the natural world

Robot Mobility, Manipulation & Attachment: new add-on mechanisms enhancing robots’ abilities to move and operate in unstructured environments

Multi-modal Sensing: developing a wide range of low-profile sensors to measure tactile forces, pose and stretch in robots and flexible structures

Design Methods

Bio-inspired Design

Our bio-inspired design research is focused on robot mobility and operation in unstructured/extreme environments. We learn from forms and functions that occur in nature how to sense changes in physical environments. We study how to replicate the underlying biological approaches using advances in robotics, materials and manufacturing technologies, then prototype, test and validate the effectiveness of our approaches.

Art-inspired Design

We use creative design methods such as Origami and Kirigami to generate creative reconfigurable robotic mechanisms enabling multi-modal actuation, sensing and attachment to the environment. The work involves developments of mathematical reconfiguration models, low-fidelity prototyping, testing and translation into practical mechanisms and systems.

Socio-technical Design

The balance between human needs and technical demands is central to our research. This involves considering not only usability and ergonomics, but also methods to elicit and understand human needs and concerns in unfamiliar or extreme conditions, and to refine or even rethink designs as a result. There is increasing evidence that interdisciplinary research, and specifically the combination of creative art and design methods with scientific and technological disciplines, enables researchers to translate their work into human, societal and economic benefit.

Current Research Students

Filippo Sanzeni
Project: Soft Wearable Robotics for Enhanced Strength and Mobility

Davin Browner Conaty 
Project: Soft Mobile Robotics for Inaccessible Environments

Malgorzata Starzynska
Project: Convolutional Neural Networks For Point Cloud Shape Recognition


Robotics Laboratory: Funded Projects