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Soft Robotics

Original article


If you venture into Facebook’s career section page, you will find that the social media giant has several open job listings for PhD students in “soft robotics”. The openings are listed for Research Intern open positions who would work at the Facebook Reality Labs (FRL), a world leader in the design of virtual reality systems.

Facebook seeks innovative research interns who have a passion for technology to work and develop the next-generation soft robotic systems at its FRL research location in Redmond, Washington. The research Intern roles are focused on the invention of haptics (a branch of nonverbal communication involving any form of interaction involving touch), research, fluidic actuators, novel manufacturing techniques and soft active materials. The social media giant welcomes PhD students in mechanical engineering, robotics, electrical engineering, materials science, bioengineering, or similar field to research into “soft robotics”.


Soft Robotics: The Next Hot Trend into Technology

Lot has been said about soft robotics which is dubbed as the next hot trend invading tech space in the coming years. Soft Robotics is an experimental field of robotics drawing inspiration from biology and living organisms from octopuses to chameleon tongues to create more flexible and versatile robots closer to animals than the traditional mechanical robots in vogue today.

Facebook is quietly hiring for interns to focus on developing flexible robots using next-generation materials that have the ability to adapt to the real-world environments.  The hiring spree has been on for a year, and these roles don’t appear to be related to any publicly announced hardware projects at Facebook.


The Living Technology

Soft Robotics taking an inspiration from living organisms will use next-generation materials and experimental designs, to resemble cephalopods and worms flexible to bend and perform tasks rigid robots cannot handle and adapt to real-world environments.

Soft Robots can carry fragile and soft payloads without causing any damage and can squeeze through openings smaller than their nominal dimensions which makes them an ideal bet for the next gen applications like personal robots which interact with humans without causing injury, undertake painting and logistics jobs that need high dexterity to reach confined spaces, medical robots who can make complex surgeries easy and pain-free, and defence and rescue robots who can be deployed into unstructured environments instigating a new warfare.


Facebook’s Soft Robotics Internship

Facebook is offering internship opportunities for sixteen (16) to twenty-four (24) weeks duration where candidates can join the social media giant at various start dates throughout the year between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019.

The selected interns will develop “soft robotic technologies” and will undertake the following responsibilities, as per the job listing on its career page:

•  Research on next generation soft haptic and robotic devices giving an emphasis on both physical embodiment and theory of the new concepts.

•  The application areas include characterization of electromechanical devices.

•  The job involves soft mechanism design (e.g. fluidic actuators) and working on sensor fusion software technology.

•  Machine learning on embodied robotics and systems level soft robotics integration.

•  The open position gives candidates an opportunity to work on micro- and macro- fluidics characterization.

•  The position additionally will have an emphasis on fundamental scientific and engineering questions related to the still-unknown mechanisms of soft active materials to inform new concepts and the perceptual impact of those concepts.

•  The research interns will collaborate with Facebook Reality Labs team to exchange inputs on creative leadership on soft robotics and characterization.

• The listing mentions that the research should be publishable research results into top-tier journals and at leading international conferences in robotics and materials science.

Does this job description interests you? Here is the minimum qualification benchmark that you need to pass to apply.


Minimum Qualification for the Internship

•  The candidate has to be in the process of obtaining a PhD degree in the field of robotics, bioengineering, and materials science with soft matter focus, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering technologies.

•  The applicant has to be currently enrolled in a full-time PhD program and returning to the program after the completion of the internship.

•  The internship listing seeks 1+ years of experience into computational design, materials testing hardware prototyping and additive manufacturing.

•  The internship listing further seeks 1+ years’ experience with experimental robotics and conducting laboratory work (i.e., demonstrated ability to construct proof-of-concept systems and to evaluate performance)

•  Candidates have to have 2+ years’ experience with scientific programming languages such as Mathematica, Matlab, Python, or similar

•  Interpersonal experience into cross-group and cross-culture collaborations.

•  The interested applicants must obtain work authorization in country of employment at the time of hire, and maintain on-going work authorization during employment.

Additionally, the Social Media Giant seeks these Preferred Qualifications for the role:

•  The candidates must have demonstrated experience in the field of robotics and mechatronics via work experience, an internship, or widely used contributions to open source projects.

•  Have a proven track record of achieving significant results as demonstrated by first-authored publications.


Robotics 2.0

With this hiring, Facebook aims to bring a new era into robotics putting a heavy focus to create novel materials and develop this new technology.  Facebook’s senior AI scientists have previously said that the company is broadly investing in robotics as the future holds enormous promise and the potential learning from the field may be transferable to its work in artificial intelligence. The Internship listing in its career page makes clear that these roles are not restricted to mere working on theory or simulation but build the physical robotics tech in reality.