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  • Writer's pictureZalli Foundation

Soft and Flexible Robotics in Medicine and Aerospace


Mr Sourav Karmakar is a Roboticist and CEO of Infinos Tech and has given various international talks such as TEDx Talk, FAiL Talk (MIT, USA Alumni Platform), Motivational Sessions, Space-Talks, etc.


He is doing research on Soft Robotics. His vision is to make hybrid, origami & soft robots for med-tech, defence & aerospace applications. His present research includes the Prototype of a Bio-inspired (Amphibian) Hybrid-Soft Robot for Planetary Exploration. It is mainly focused on replacing the Soft Robot which can change the shape as per requirement based on pre and post-deployment. His research also includes the Hybrid and Soft Robotic Applications for the Space Solar Sail and Cubesat deployment technique. This is useful to manage the volume inside the space vehicle or rocket and it can be deployed with the maximum capacity. This kind of robotics is called Origami robotics which includes the paper or particular material-based shape folding technique. Another part of his research includes a Soft surgical robotic tool with the surgical ecosystem. It is aimed to support Human Robotic Collaboration in case of surgery. His Startupis Infinos Tech LLP. It is a product-based company about a Renewable energy-based Portable Customized Cooling and Heating Smart container for the biotech application with a Smart City and Electric Vehicle Ecosystem.


As a Hardware and Robotics startup, Mr Sourav and his team are working on a small Bio-inspired Robotic Arm CubeSat module for Space Debris technology with another collaborator (startup). He is the Indian Chapter Chair of Space Renaissance International to grow awareness about STEM/Space Education. He is building an open platform for STEAM students to explore core research and development with possible resources. This way the students are able to join from pan India and possibly work from home mode to complete certain projects based on research aspects. He mentored NASA SpaceApps Challenge in Italy and participated in various international projects.


He is also a Product development consultant for various academic and industrial projects and an advisor for Lifeboat Foundation USA, Space Career & Leadership USA/Germany, etc. Also, he is a Mentor of Change in Atal Innovation Mission India, and here he is mentoring pan-India schools and students for various projects, technology and STEAM aspects. He is also a Mentor for a national-level trust called Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust. He is a Co-author, illustrator & poet of Blow the Winds Southerly etc. His hobbies are writing poems and making clay modelling and painting.

 

Good morning, Sourav! It is an honor to have you with us today! It is a pleasure to interview you about the field to which you have made significant contributions. In fact, we are very interested in your area of expertise. What drew you to study med-tech and soft robots and specialize in them?


Soft robotics is an emerging field of research with diverse opportunities. I learned about the domain during my research on robotics grippers. It could become a great alternative for various applications, and even soft robotics tools are scalable (miniature to a larger size) up to some extent which might not be possible for traditional robotic tools based on particular applications. We can take the example of soft robotics for medical applications. Soft robotics could produce various tools and assistive solutions for MedTech and outer space-related applications. Innovative and cost-effective Medical tools are needed, especially surgical tools, and surgical robotics are the potential areas for research and development and future sophisticated application.


Soft robotics could bring a lot of innovations and advantages for medical tools and medical robotics, and it could be multipurpose and reusable based on the nature of the material science and associated integral sensors. Soft robotics could also be vital in remote operations or assistive capabilities. This kind of application is mostly required for outer space and planetary exploration. We all know that space shuttles are very costly and risky. Soft robotics with origami applications(folding capacity according to size and shape) could be a game changer in minimally invasive surgery or laparoscopy.


In the era of artificial intelligence, we might achieve a soft robotic system with shape-changing and sensorized applications for multi-purpose surgical requirements. I have been working on a hybrid-soft surgical robot for urinary tract surgery. We aim to develop low-cost surgical robotic tools and ecosystems that can be adjustable for present manual and robotic surgery and could impact future robotic surgical development.


The main concept is focused on grasping and manipulation for small-scale surgical applications. I also research soft assistive robots for planetary exploration, which can be developed focused on hazardous and unpredictable circumstances. A few of my robots are bio-inspired, like caterpillar robots and robotic origami applications for the solar sail. These robots are hybrid (soft+ rigid) and could be potential applications for outer space challenges.


A soft surgical robotic tool in the surgical ecosystem is an important part of your research process. Can you explain to the audience in simple terms realised tool can be used and what benefits it provides?

A soft surgical tool is ideally made of soft or hybrid soft material with safety parameters for surgery and other medical applications. Here I want to develop a multipurpose soft surgical tool that can be used in different parts of the human body per the surgical requirement. Traditionally surgical tools are metallic with different coating and safety parameters. My vision is to develop soft surgical tools that can be embedded with present surgical scenarios and become a key application for future surgical evaluation. In the case of metallic surgical tools, there could be some kind of pain or issues with post-surgical trauma. I aim to develop soft surgical tools that can reduce the pain and the present challenges produced by traditional medical and surgical tools.


Soft surgical tools could have disadvantages even though the future seems promising based on the trials and feedback. In the case of soft tools, material science plays a key role, as well as the control system for surgical applications. There is a possibility of the limited usage of the same tool, which could have its limitation for grasping and manipulation for long-distance surgical applications. Researchers are working on different types of surgical tools and ecosystems, and we hope to resolve the present issues with the soft robotics surgical ecosystem with more repeatability and cost-effectiveness.

We are curious to know what the word "work" means to you in three words, and do success and fame motivates you, even more, to get where you aspire?

words for the WORK are: PERSISTENCE, PRODUCTIVE & CONCLUSIVE

Success and fame could initially help to grow towards the same direction and motivate us to sustain the greater goal. But the role of success after a certain period could vary. The work can be defined collection of activities with a direction. Sometimes, It could be very methodic or repetitive or generic. A work can be very positive or beautiful if it has certain essence of motivation and step-by-step growth. This way, we can achieve certain results from the task or work as per our capacity. True guidance and a defined mechanism could drive our work in a successful direction.


Persistence is key in defining and persuading a work for a particular reason. A reason could give a task meaning. Persistence with experience could generate productive work. I follow this way of thought regarding new challenges, and utilising previous experiences for upcoming works is good. A directionless work could not bring a well-defined conclusion. I always try to be persistent for better productivity because every step has different challenges and consequences. I resolve those obstacles with persistence and a productive and positive mindset. It helps me become more conclusive at an early stage or at least gives me a clue or essence of the conclusion of a certain manner of work. This combination of persistence, productivity and conclusiveness could lead a person systematically to chase their goal and bring a conclusive outcome with a better success rate.

Do you think that, as a CEO, you have applied your vision to Infinos Tech, too?


Infinos is a company and a motivation for my life to grow my leadership and technology-driven business skill set for the future. I’d like to implement broader aspects of my vision into entrepreneurship. Those are Purpose, Innovation, Growth Team & Clients. Start by defining the purpose of the business and focus on the problem statement. Along with the purpose, my vision for work includes a commitment to innovation. We must continuously look for new and better ways to do things and stay ahead of the competition by being creative and adaptive.


A growth strategy is also required to expand the business with feedback from customer segments. Success in entrepreneurship often comes down to building a strong team. I always value a good, diverse, strong team that could follow our vision and work hard. Finally, the important part of the vision is to include a customer-centric approach. It is understanding customers' needs and preferences and prioritising delivering products and services that match their expectations. This combination could be a good tool for further growing my vision and leadership potential.

What piques our interest in your next major project? What is your next plan for your career?

I’ve been a fan of Aerospace & Space Exploration. I always try to add some new aerospace aspects towards my research and entrepreneurial journey. I look forward to bringing some innovative but simple and cost-effective solutions for Space Exploration if possible. As my background is in Soft Robotics, I’d like to make Soft Robots for Planetary Exploration and beyond. I’ve already started working on such an area; recently, two of my research papers are about the same. One of the research papers is about the Deployable Solar Sail, which

showcases the Flexible Robotics approach for optimising or expanding the Solar Sail structure as required inside the Rocket or in Space or Orbit. My other paper is about a Bio-inspired Lightweight Soft Robot for Multi-Terrain Exploration. This kind of Robot can be modified further for Moon and Mars Exploration.


Apart from these two, I also have a Bio-inspired Robotic Arm for a Space Debris collection prototype. Most of my research has a decent possibility of the product for Space Applications. My first product is about Eco-friendly, Sustainable Smart Container with temperature control and tracking. It is essential for covid-like situations and in agri, food, medical, and industrial applications. This could play a potential role in the smart city and delivery ecosystem. My second research-oriented product would be a wearable hybrid soft exoskeleton for elderly people and the defence industry. Exoskeleton is pretty famous globally for its extensive applications in industry and daily life. We aim to develop a user-friendly and highly customised wearable exoskeleton for common people and defence industry workers.


As a space enthusiast, I might devise a solution for space debris and soft robots for planetary exploration. I have already explored those areas as a part of my research projects. A few of those robotic applications are already in the testing phase. I look forward to collaborating with potential collaborators to develop and deploy those robotic applications per the commercial requirement.

Let’s turn to qualities. In your opinion, distinguish a great leader, based on your experience and education.

These are some key qualities that distinguish a great leader. However, leadership is a complex and multifaceted concept with many recipes for success. The most effective and influential leaders can adapt their leadership style to different situations and contexts and always want to learn and grow. I focus on a few important leadership perspectives, such as a proper vision for a team and plan, integrity, good decisiveness, quick adaptability and resilience.

Combining those factors helps a leader take the right path. There are multiple situations which have their way of approaches and solutions. The collective experience could turn a horrible possibility into a sweet outcome. Adding leadership quality to this visionary experience could bring a major change in upcoming circumstances. Leadership is the key to unlocking known and unknown territories where opportunities and challenges can be mutually available for different possibilities. A good leader could judge those possibilities, unlock the key to growing him/herself, and carry the team along with them. True leaders grow with wholeheartedness for themselves and the entire team or a bigger community.


The goal and the visionary leadership could be a fantastic combination for such unpredictable but major success. Education inspires us to become something with a new set of diverse information. This information could be from humanities to dedicated academic fields, and it could enhance new possibilities and ideas and germinate leadership qualities in any student. A certain level of education could be professional or academic, but overall it could lead us to become experts or explorers. Personally, I believe education helped me grow my research capabilities concerning my STEM background. We need more research-oriented education from the secondary level of the school, which can help students be in the accurate field they want to choose.


Leadership is like an all-time case study dealing with multiple obstacles. Having an early-stage experience in certain domains could help a leader to be an expert in dealing with those obstacles. Contrary to formal education, there are a lot of exceptional candidates with practical experience who have become great leaders. Nowadays, education is very artificial and has a single direction of success. Somehow it needs more nourishment of creativity and uniqueness in individuals. Uniqueness in a person could grow potential leadership qualities, and we could always pursue such direction even if there is no such traditional school to teach us. We can always learn from both categories and motivate ourselves for future endeavours.

Let's switch gears and talk about your interests. We've discovered that you write poetry. Is this a passion that you have had since you were a child or one that you discovered later in life?

Writing poetry has been my passion since childhood. It’s something like a flow which inspired me to be connected with emotion, nature and social impact towards the general population for diverse criteria. I mostly like the sonnet style of poetry. I used to write poetry always in a rhyme scheme. The poetry's subject is diverse, sometimes reflecting my experiences or about something. Writing poetry is very interesting for me to explore the melody between the words, expression and the background of some topic. I have been reading a lot of poets and authors such as Tagore, Rudyard Kipling, Wilfred Owen etc.


Also, my mother tongue is Bengali, and it has rich literature, motivating me to imagine and portray different scenarios in poems. Poetry is one of my hobbies, and it changes according to the experience and different stages of my life. It brings different tastes and diversity regarding the choice of topic and way of expression. I'm fortunate to be a part of a novel as a co-author/poet and illustrator. The book is called “Blow the winds southerly. The main author was the set director of Hollywood(Anthony Bashford).


Here, two of my poems have been added as part of the flow of the whole storyline. Apart from poetry, I love sculpture and clay modelling. I learnt this for a few years under professional training. It has greatly impacted scientific/scientific subjects. This hobby helped me to develop any concept into a 3D model, especially artefacts, historical figures and sometimes science objects. The sculpture has greatly impacted my robotics research and conceptualisation of those for future applications. As I deal with soft materials to develop different kinds of robots, sculpture is the key to understanding the nature of material science. It helped me to visualise mostly the robotic medical application.

Finally, we'd like to send a motivational message to all young people who want a successful career in this field.

I believe in one concept called “connecting dots”. It means there are multiple opportunities and challenges; we should learn from them and convert them into positive ones. I'm from a very middle-class economic family background, and most of the time, I have to solve my problems even though different support is available for similar seekers and aspirants. This set of experiences helped me to pursue a life-long exploring approach. An exploratory mind is always curious and suspicious about visualising any event or problem. I think it makes a person more mature to judge a situation and helps to solve the issue according to the requirement. In this global village, a positive mindset with exploratory nature could help a person to be self-motivated. I just follow one catchy line for myself:

Demotivation is the motivation

And the connecting dots between demotivation and motivation could result in a person being better in their career and life.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being with us today, Sourav!

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