PhD Position : AI-driven mechanical design of soft robotic structures for hybrid rigid-soft robots

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About Enchanted Tools

We're currently building a "more than useful" robot to enchant the world with Mechatronics, AI, Robotics & Animation technologies

First prototype will be revealed at the end of 2022

Enchanted Tools was created in October 2021 by Jérôme Monceaux (multi-entrepreneur, co-founder of Aldebaran & creator of the Nao and Pepper robots) and Samuel Benveniste (PhD and former Director of the National Expertise Centre for Cognitive Stimulation).

The 50-strong team is made up of multidisciplinary specialists and is tackling three major challenges in robotics

Interface oriented

Interactions with untrained users: how to make sure that everyone can interact with the robot without any technical prerequisites.

Manipulation oriented

Automated object capture: how to facilitate object capture by optimising its efficiency.

Navigation oriented

Automated navigation in semi-standardised spaces: how to make a robot move among a population in a defined area.

Job description

Context :

Nowadays, the need for robotic platforms able to safely interact with humans and the environments to perform useful tasks is emerging as a very strong trend.

Current robotic platforms are built with rigid components including motors, sensors, power transmission, joint mechanisms and supporting structures. However, high rigidity is usually achieved by using heavy and stiff materials, resulting in high inertia and low impact absorption capabilities, making the platform dangerous in case of error in control or falling.

A potential solution to this problem is the use of soft robotics: including soft and lightweight materials into the design of robotic platforms provides a new paradigm to develop safer robots able to comply and gently interact with their surrounding environment and with humans. However the use of soft materials makes the application of conventional control and design methods impossible. Therefore, new methodologies and tools are required.

In this project, we will develop a set of optimization techniques, inspired by evolutionary computation, specifically designed for the optimal design of soft-rigid robotic structures. These techniques will be primarily tested in high-fidelity physics-based simulators, and later prototyped in physical realizations to be tested in social environments, where safety and compliance are crucial

Research :

This 3-year fully-funded PhD project is co-funded by EnchantedTools ( and the EU PNRR funds. The prospective candidate will be

primarily based at the University of Trento, Italy, but he or she will also have the opportunity to spend a period in France, working with experts in the field of rigid and soft robotics, engineering and AI. The PhD project will start in November 2022.

Localization :

Mainly at Univertisty of Trento

Few months in Paris at Enchanted tools headquarter


Keywords :

Soft materials

Mechanical design

Social robotics


Supervisors :

Giovanni Iacca : University of Trento

Davide Zappetti : Enchanted Tools



For inquiries:

University of Trento :

Corporate :



Requirements :

The ideal candidate has a Master's in one of the following areas: computer science, mechatronic engineering, or related topics, and should have at least an interest in mechanical engineering and/or material science, as well as in computer aided design and numerical simulations. Previous experience in optimization and (soft) robotics are considered a plus.


Language :

The working language for the PhD is English. Knowledge of Italian and/or French is a plus.

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