There has been an increasing interest in applying biological principles to the design and control of robots. Unlike industrial robots that are programmed to execute a rather limited number of tasks, the new generation of bio-inspired robots is expected to display a wide range of behaviours in unpredictable environments, as well as to interact safely and smoothly with human co-workers. In this article, we put forward some of the properties that will characterize these new robots: soft materials, flexible and stretchable sensors, modular and efficient actuators, self-organization and distributed control. We introduce a number of design principles; in particular, we try to comprehend the novel design space that now includes soft materials and requires a completely different way of thinking about control. We also introduce a recent case study of developing a complex humanoid robot, discuss the lessons learned and speculate about future challenges and perspectives.