Applications closed

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.

Applications Are Currently CLosed

Application Timeline

Launch Date

March 28, 2022


May 2, 2022 at 5:00pm AOE (Anywhere on Earth)

Winners Announced

June 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.


Proposals should include

  • Executive summary (max 400 words)
  • Description of approach and theoretical basis, including references to supporting work (200–1200 words)
  • Risks, challenges, and contingency plan
  • Prototype hardware implementation considerations (e.g., actuator requirements)
  • Schedule of milestones and deliverables
  • A draft budget description (one page) including an approximate cost of the award and explanation of how funds would be spent
  • Curriculum Vitae for all project participants
  • Organization details; this will include tax information and administrative contact details


  • 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).

Frequently Asked Questions

Terms & Conditions

Meta’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to Meta RFP solicitations, including whether or not to grant an award and the interpretation of Meta RFP Terms and Conditions. By submitting a proposal, applicants affirm that they have read and agree to these Terms and Conditions.

  • Meta is authorized to evaluate proposals submitted under its RFPs, to consult with outside experts, as needed, in evaluating proposals, and to grant or deny awards using criteria determined by Meta to be appropriate and at Meta sole discretion. Meta’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to its RFPs, and applicants agree not to challenge any such decisions.
  • Meta will not be required to treat any part of a proposal as confidential or protected by copyright, and may use, edit, modify, copy, reproduce and distribute all or a portion of the proposal in any manner for the sole purposes of administering the Meta RFP website and evaluating the contents of the proposal.
  • Personal data submitted with a proposal, including name, mailing address, phone number, and email address of the applicant and other named researchers in the proposal may be collected, processed, stored and otherwise used by Meta for the purposes of administering Meta’s RFP website, evaluating the contents of the proposal, and as otherwise provided under Meta’s Privacy Policy.
  • Neither Meta nor the applicant is obligated to enter into a business transaction as a result of the proposal submission. Meta is under no obligation to review or consider the proposal.
  • Feedback provided in a proposal regarding Meta products or services will not be treated as confidential or protected by copyright, and Meta is free to use such feedback on an unrestricted basis with no compensation to the applicant. The submission of a proposal will not result in the transfer of ownership of any IP rights.
  • Applicants represent and warrant that they have authority to submit a proposal in connection with a Meta RFP and to grant the rights set forth herein on behalf of their organization. All awards provided by Meta in connection with this RFP shall be used only in accordance with applicable laws and shall not be used in any way, directly or indirectly, to facilitate any act that would constitute bribery or an illegal kickback, an illegal campaign contribution, or would otherwise violate any applicable anti-corruption or political activities law.
  • Funding for winningRFP proposals will be provided to the academic institution with which the primary investigator/applicant is affiliated pursuant to a gift or other funding model as specified in the RFP call. Applicants understand and acknowledge that their affiliated academic institution will need to agree to the terms and conditions of such gift or other agreement to receive funding.
  • Applicants acknowledge and agree that by submitting an application they are consenting to their name, university / organization’s name and proposal title being made public on Meta’s blog on the website if they are chosen as an RFP winner or finalist. If an applicant is selected as a winner or finalist, they will then have the opportunity to provide written notification that they do not consent to the blog inclusion.


  1. Biswas, Shantonu, and Yon Visell. “Emerging Material Technologies for Haptics.” Advanced Materials Technologies 4, no. 4 (April 2019): 1900042.
  2. Yin, Jessica, Ronan Hinchet, Herbert Shea, and Carmel Majidi. “Wearable Soft Technologies for Haptic Sensing and Feedback.” Advanced Functional Materials 31, no. 39 (September 2021): 2007428.
  3. Jin, Sang Woo, Jeongwon Park, Soo Yeong Hong, Heun Park, Yu Ra Jeong, Junhong Park, Sang-Soo Lee, and Jeong Sook Ha. “Stretchable Loudspeaker Using Liquid Metal Microchannel.” Scientific Reports 5, no. 1 (December 2015): 11695.
  4. Guo, Rui, Lei Sheng, HengYi Gong, and Jing Liu. “Liquid Metal Spiral Coil Enabled Soft Electromagnetic Actuator.” Science China Technological Sciences 61, no. 4 (April 2018): 516–21.
  5. Doerger, Stanley, and Cindy Harnett. “Force-Amplified Soft Electromagnetic Actuators.” Actuators 7, no. 4 (October 31, 2018): 76.
  6. Mao, Guoyong, Michael Drack, Mahya Karami-Mosammam, Daniela Wirthl, Thomas Stockinger, Reinhard Schwödiauer, and Martin Kaltenbrunner. “Soft Electromagnetic Actuators.” Science Advances 6, no. 26 (June 1, 2020): eabc0251.
  7. Kohls, Noah, Beatriz Dias, Yaw Mensah, Bryan P. Ruddy, and Yi Chen Mazumdar. “Compliant Electromagnetic Actuator Architecture for Soft Robotics.” In 2020 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 9042–49, 2020.
  8. Kohls, Noah, Ibrahim Abdeally, Bryan P. Ruddy, and Yi Chen Mazumdar. “Design of a Xenia Coral Robot Using a High-Stroke Compliant Linear Electromagnetic Actuator.” ASME Letters in Dynamic Systems and Control 1, no. 3 (February 23, 2021).
  9. Ebrahimi, Nafiseh, Teja Guda, Miltiadis Alamaniotis, Dimitrios Miserlis, and Amir Jafari. “Design Optimization of a Novel Networked Electromagnetic Soft Actuators System Based on Branch and Bound Algorithm.” IEEE Access 8 (2020): 119324–35.
  10. Ruddy, Bryan Paul, Yi Chen Mazumdar, and Jason Yunhe Guan. “Liquid Conductor Electric Machines: A New Cooling Approach for Pulsed Power Applications.” In 2021 IEEE Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition (ECCE), 5955–60, 2021.
  11. Do, Thanh Nho, Hung Phan, Thuc-Quyen Nguyen, and Yon Visell. “Miniature Soft Electromagnetic Actuators for Robotic Applications.” Advanced Functional Materials 28, no. 18 (May 2018): 1800244.
  12. Song, Kahye, Sohyun Kim, and Youngsu Cha. “Soft Electromagnetic Actuator for Assembly Robots.” Smart Materials and Structures 29, no. 6 (May 2020): 067001.
  13. Fukushi, T., Kim, S.H., Hashi, S. and Ishiyama, K., 2013. Magnetic silicone rubber: Fabrication and analysis with applications. Journal of the Korean Physical Society, 63(3), pp.686-690.