Sponsor Deadline
Posted: 4/19/2022

2022 Project ActuatorX: Soft Electromagnetic Actuation RFP

Reality Labs Research at Meta (formerly Facebook) is seeking proposals on novel research that advances the state-of-the-art in the area of soft actuators, primarily soft electromagnetic actuation, that impact the development of wearable haptic devices for virtual and augmented reality platforms. Depending on the quality and requirements of the research, one research proposal may receive up to $250,000. We are particularly interested in research that increases the force density of soft electromagnetic actuators or makes fundamental improvements in soft magnetic materials or thermal management of these actuators. In addition to results and data, we expect proof-of-concept functional research prototypes demonstrating the proposed idea in a laboratory setting at the conclusion of the project.

Current soft actuators for haptics have several limitations such as slow response, low force output, are difficult to control precisely, or require bulky source or high-control voltages, which limit their application in untethered wearable devices [1, 2]. Pneumatic actuators are widely used in soft robotics due to their ability to generate large output force, but need high-pressure (>15 psi), low-efficiency bulky pneumatic source, noisy actuation valves, and are slow in response (limited to a few Hz bandwidth). Electrostatic actuators (e.g., hydraulically amplified self-healing electrostatic actuators or dielectric elastomer actuators) show good high-frequency performance, but have low-force density and require high operational voltages of thousands of volts with bulky high voltage power electronics and pose a risk for humans. Conventional electromagnetic motors offer many advantages such as fast response and lower actuation voltage, as well as highly programmable and well-controlled movements, compared to existing soft actuators.

New types of soft electromagnetic actuators have recently been developed by reforming actuator structure and resorting to novel stretchable conductors and magnetic composites that retain most of the advantages of conventional rigid electromagnetic actuators without inheriting much of their encumbrance [3–13]. These actuators offer an avenue to develop a new class of soft haptic actuators that offer high performance, low encumbrance, ease of integration with wearables, high efficiency, and untethered operation.

Deadline: May 2, 2022

Areas of Interest

We seek proposals that push the state-of-the-art in one or more of the following areas with respect to such soft electromagnetic actuators:

  • Develop a novel actuator that achieves large force density and use it to develop device prototype(s) with applications in haptics.
  • Develop novel materials or actuator architectures that improve the actuator performance (e.g., force density or efficiency) and prototype(s) demonstrating the proposed approach.
  • Develop novel ways to manage heat generated by the actuator and prototype(s) demonstrating the proposed approach.
Eligibility Requirements
  • Awards must comply with applicable U.S. and international laws, regulations, and policies.
  • Applicants must be current full-time faculty at an accredited academic institution that awards research degrees to PhD students.
  • Applicants must be the Principal Investigator on any resulting award.
  • Applicants may submit one proposal per solicitation.
  • Applicants must have received an original, personally addressed invitation from Meta and must not have shared that invitation with colleagues at the same institution without prior agreement with Meta.
  • Awards can only be made as research contracts under the existing MCRA master agreement with that institution, or are contingent on such an agreement being instated – please discuss with Meta if you are not aware of a current MCRA.
  • Organizations must be a nonprofit or non-governmental organization with recognized legal status in their respective country (equal to 501(c)(3) status under the United States Internal Revenue Code).
Funding Type