Soft and Social workshop

Soft and social robotics for improved human centred


Soft robotics has the potential to embody successful social robotics due to its inherent multidisciplinary nature and attractive physical properties of softness, flexibility, and variable shape. To develop this potential, the Soft and Social workshop aims to explore the impact of psychology, co-design, human-robot interactions, aesthetics, and design methods on current and future applications of soft and social robots. We aim to expand soft robotic design thinking; to encourage the consideration of essential multidisciplinary concepts in the initial design stages of all aspects of soft robotic creation.

To stimulate multidisciplinary ideation, collaboration, and forward thinking, the workshop will run in two sessions with presentations and collaborative activities; the first session will explore user informed design, and the second will explore speculative thinking in soft robotics and design. 


13:30 – 14:00Opening and Introduction
14:00 – 14:15Presentation – Swen Gaudl
14:15 – 14:20Q&A
14:20 – 14:35Presentation – Linda Shore
14:35 – 14:40Q&A
14:40 – 15:40Break and Ideation Activity
15:40 – 15:55Presentation – Mark Peterson
15:55 – 16:00Q&A
16:00 – 16:15Presentation – Caroline Yan Zheng
16:15 – 16:20Q&A
16:20 – 16:35Presentation – Alexandre Colle
16:35 – 16:40Q&A
16:40 – 17:40Speculative Activity and discussion


Ruby Marshall

University of Edinburgh

Ruby Marshall is a Lecturer in Soft Robotics at Design Informatics while also currently in the final stages of her PhD studies at the School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, in the Soft Systems robotics group.

Her research focuses on actuated textile design and function, looking at how physical properties can be varied and tuned to produce a desired system output.

Although trained and qualified as an Aero-Mechanical engineer Ruby’s interests lie in soft robotics for human well-being with a view to exploring and creating novel, biological and eco-friendly robotics.

Alexandre Colle

University of Edinburgh / Heriot Watt University

Alexandre Colle is a PhD student at the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, where he is researching how aesthetics can be used to enhance the appeal of robots and unlock their full potential to improve human life.

His background includes a BA in Fashion and Luxury Goods and previous experience in business development and entrepreneurship in the luxury fashion and hospitality industries.

He is a designer and entrepreneur in residence for Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, as well as the art director and CEO for two social robotics start-ups, Konpanion and Robobrico.

Adam Stokes

University of Edinburgh

Adam A. Stokes is Full Professor and Chair of Bioinspired Engineering in The School of Engineering at The University of Edinburgh.

Professor Stokes holds degrees in engineering, biomedical science, and chemistry and he used this background to found The Soft Systems Group, an interdisciplinary research laboratory focusing on the intersection of next-generation robotics technology, bioelectronics, and bioinspired engineering.

Professor Stokes is Co-Lead of The National Robotarium, the UK centre of excellence in robotics, and Deputy Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics.

Before joining the faculty at Edinburgh he was a Fellow in the George M. Whitesides group at Harvard University, one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial labs in the world. Prof. Stokes is enthusiastic about translating innovation out of the lab and into people’s lives. His entrepreneurial activities have been recognised  by winning the Inaugural Data Driven Entrepreneurship (DDE) Academic Entrepreneurship Award, and the Principal’s Award for Innovation.

Outside of the academy, Prof Stokes is a founder of several companies and the Academic in Residence with Archangels Investors Ltd.

Alix Partridge

National Robotarium

Dr Alix Partridge is a Senior Engineer at the National Robotarium in Edinburgh, where he works alongside industrial partners to create soft robotic solutions for unconventional problems.

He is a recent graduate of the Soft Robotics group at the University of Bristol, where he worked on the creation and implementation of passive reflex response mechanisms for pneumatically actuated soft robots.

Now focussing on being unfocussed, he is trying his hand at a variety of different challenges, including soft robots for performance, the creation of more sustainable fabrication processes within soft robotics and anything else that lets him make a productive mess.


Linda Shore

Linda is a UX Designer/Researcher who is excited about the possibilities of future technologies and how these can enhance the worlds, lives and experiences of people as they age. The concept of transgenerational Technology also offers intriguing prospect to contemplate adaptable and legacy aspects to future technology design and the people who are supported or experience enhanced quality of life as a result.

Mark Peterson

Mark Paterson is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. He has an interest in the sociology of the body and the senses, especially as they relate to technology. Along with articles published in humanities and social science journals, he is author of the books The Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects and Technologies (Routledge, 2007), Seeing with the Hands: Blindness, Vision and Touch After Descartes (Edinburgh University Press, 2016), Consumption and Everyday Life (Routledge 2006; Second Edition 2017), and co-editor of Touching Place, Spacing Touch (Routledge, 2012). His most recent book is How We Became Sensorimotor: Movement, Measurement, Sensation with University of Minnesota Press (2021). His current research project is concerned with the role of embodiment in the histories of human-robot interactions.

He is on the Editorial Board of the journals The Senses and SocietyEmotion, Space & Society, and Multimodality and Society.

Barbara Girard

Caroline Yan Zheng

Caroline Yan Zheng is a designer and researcher focused on fashion, soft robotics, human-computer interaction, and experience design. She explores how wearable technology can be designed to foster emotionally rich sensory experiences, and creates emotionally intelligent robotics and sentimental machines using co-design and speculative design. Caroline has an MA in Fashion Futures from London College of Fashion and is currently a PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art. Her research focuses on creating soft, wearable solutions that could be applied to immersive experience design, therapeutic treatment for mental health, human-robotic interaction, and affective communication via the tactile channel.

Caroline’s prototypes have attracted funding from Cancer Research UK for a collaboration with the Institute of Cancer Research, the Royal Marsden Hospital, and the Imperial College London to improve patient experience during radiotherapy and imaging sessions. She also has entrepreneurial experience and was recently awarded a grant from MedTech Super Connector to translate her research prototype into commercially viable products and services for mental health and improving patient comfort in cancer treatment.

Swen Gaudl

Swen Gaudl is a Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design and a member of the division of Human-Computer Interaction at the Department of Applied Information Technology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden as well as a Lecturer in Computer Science [Game Development] at the University of Plymouth, UK. Swen has over 15 years of experience in software development in commercial and academic settings.

His research is in the intersection between AI, Arts, Manufacturing & embodied design in robotics, as well as eHealth often integrating co-creation or participatory design into the projects. He is part 2 large UKRI-funded projects in the domain of eHealth and co-design and Co-founder of the robotics brand Konpanion. He recently worked on 3 large-scale ERDF-funded projects dealing with the democratization of technology in rural areas.

Swen’s research often is trans-disciplinary working with colleagues from varied domains; it involves technical aspects of software/hardware design & development and research methods from HCI to investigate and advance the creation and design of novel artifacts involving diverse user groups.