Funded Projects

Photos of three origami designs with different fold angles

Origami-patterned sensors and actuators

The goals: Investigate origami properties of soft materials, determine tunability of origami patterned soft-material sensors, and apply to origami actuators for proprioception and control

The whys: Origami patterns have novel metamaterial properties, including negative Poisson’s ratio (expansion in both in-plane directions), that may be applicable to making mechanical sensors with tuned or selective properties. Deployable soft origami actuators will also benefit from sensors on the origami faces.

Shown left is soft Kresling origami robot. We can control the robot position using only information from the capacitive sensors. Project information, including robot STL generation code and ROS nodes, is available here.

Supported by NSF CAREER, 1846954, 02/01/2019-03/31/2025

N. Hanson, et. al., “Controlling the fold: proprioceptive feedback in a soft origami robot,” Frontiers in Robotics and AI, vol. 11, 2024

N. Hanson et. al., “Hold ’em and Fold ’em: Towards Human-scale,Feedback-Controlled Soft Origami Robots,” 2024 (arxiv)

K.L. Dorsey, H. Huang, and Y. Wen, “Origami-patterned capacitor with programmed strain sensitivity,” Multifunctional Materials, vol. 5, no. 2, 2022

Tactile Sensing with Mechanical Switch Structure

The goal of this proposal is to improve grasping and manipulation quality in soft actuators through tactile sensors with faster responses. We propose a novel buckled beam sensor to deliver tunable and fast tactile sensing across a range of applied force.


Supported by a research gift from Amazon Robotics

A photograph of a finger and a thumb holding a piece of laser cut carbon fiber. Small and large shapes are visible as cutouts through the material.

Affective Touch through Wearable Actuators

The goals: Co-PIs Dorsey and Quigley will investigate approaches to improve comfort using neuroscience-based principles of affective touch, a specific well-documented psychologically pleasant tactile sensation carried by unmyelinated sensory fibers in skin. The overall goal of this proposal is to enhance the comfort of textile-based wearable devices using wearable actuators that utilize features of affective touch (typically evoked by low-velocity stroking by a soft-textured object at low force.

Supported by a TIER 1 grant from Northeastern University

Archived Projects

DefeXtiles: 3D printed fabrics for wearable actuators and sensors

In collaboration with the Tangible Media Group at MIT.

The goal(s): Fabricate textile-like devices, sensors, and actuators in a tabletop additive manufacturing process (fused deposition modeling)

The why(s): Access to rapid prototyping tools is expanding with neighborhood maker spaces, but many tools used to prototype wearable devices and e-textiles are expensive and/or require extensive training. This project envisions bringing active and e-textile capabilities to users in their homes, which will expand access and control over wearable design.

Shown right is a flat DefeXtile sample made from PLA that is being twisted to illustrate its flexibility.

Publications: K.L. Dorsey, S.F. Roberts, J. Forman, and H. Ishii, “Analysis of DefeXtiles: A 3D printed textile,” J. Micromech. Microeng., 2022.

Supported by the MIT MLK Visiting Scholars program

A photo of two hands holding a piece of cloth so that it curls on itself
Photo of a person's bent arm, wearing a custom sleeve with strain sensors

Selective contact in anisotropic resistive sensors (SCARS) Sleeve

In collaboration with the Harvard Microrobotics Lab.

The goal(s): Design selective electrical contact sensors to select for strain over torsion, curvature, or pressure and demonstrate a sensing sleeve with the ability to identify hand gestures.

The why(s): When interacting or collaborating with machines, gestures are a natural way to convey information. This sleeve identifies three gestures without encumbering the hand with a glove.

Publications: O.A. Araromi, M.A. Graule, K.L. Dorsey, S. Castellanos, J.R. Foster, W.H. Hsu, J.J. Vlassak, W.H. Hsu, A.E. Passy, J.J. Vlassak, J.C. Weaver, C.J. Walsh, R.J. Wood, “Ultra-sensitive and resilient compliant strain gauges for soft machines,” Nature, no. 587, pp. 219–224, 2020.