Professor Perla Maiolino completed BEng, MEng and PhD in the department of Informatics, Bioengineering, Robotics and Systems Engineering at University of Genova (Italy), where she worked primarily on Technological aspect of tactile sensing and development of Large Area Tactile Sensors for robots. She worked as PostDoc at University of Cambridge where she investigated aspects related to soft sensing and soft robotics.
Perla moved to Oxford in September 2018 as Associate Professor at the Engineering Science Department and member of Oxford Robotics Institute.
Dr Perla Maiolino is interested in providing robots with the sense of touch. It is an essential modality that allows humans to interact with environment and people. it is used in manipulation and grasping of objects, whole body interaction, in exploration and in reactive behaviour (reflexes). Furthermore it is important for assessing contact parameters such as shape, texture, stiffness and temperature of the touched surface, for developing awareness of the body and for automatic responses (grasp force regulation). Sense of touch is also crucial for guiding motor behaviour (e.g, from controlling the body to perceiving the environment, as well as learning about and interacting with it).
New generations of robots are expected to operate in the dynamic and unstructured environment even more in collaboration with humans. Robots operating in these conditions must exhibit advanced forms of interaction with objects and humans requiring novel solutions in human-robot interaction processes. In this respect soft robotic devices are of particular interest to the robotics community because they have advantageous properties such as easy fabrication, low-cost, light weight, high flexibility, etc., but characterising and predicting their behaviour is challenging due to the non-linear nature of the hyper-elastic
material and their internal pressure. In order to control them it is necessary to monitor their kinematics, their interaction forces with objects in the environment and their internal pressure.
For these reasons, Perla's research is focused on the design of new technological solutions for tactile sensors to be integrated on soft robots. These soft tactile sensors will improve tactile based control of soft robots and will allow to investigate aspects such as sensory-motor coordination and how action and perception are coupled in a soft embodiment which are at the base of the effective utilisation of touch sensing for improving cognitive skills of robots.