Ongoing Projects
NI

Natural Intelligence for Robotic Monitoring of Habitats

Dates: From 2021-01-01 to 2024-03-31

Lab: Neuromuscular Coordination Laboratory

Global warming and pollution are threatening the survival of one million over the eight million species in forests and oceans on the planet. The EU answer to these challenges is the set of deeply transformative policies contained in the European Green Deal. Among these policies a prominent role is given to the restoring and preservation of ecosystems by increasing the coverage of protected biodiversity-rich land and sea areas building on the Natura 2000 network.

Stretching over 18% of the EU’s land area and almost 6% of its marine territory, Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. The land and sea coverage will be increased up to 30% within 2030.

Today human operators are the only option to perform the environmental monitoring of such a large area. This is not only because of their specific expertise and knowledge in classifying plants and habitats but also because their physical intelligence allowing them to move for hours in wild unstructured environments such dunes, forests, and mountains.

The artificial alternative is robotics, which made tremendous advancements in recent years, however robots hardly leave laboratories and factories because they are not robust and efficient to survive in the real world. Flying robots do not have the required energy autonomy, while ground robots are not: i) intelligent to autonomously percept, interpret, and interact with highly uneven, slipping and irregular grounds, ii) physically robust to manage unexpected contacts and impacts.

The Natural Intelligence (NI) project aims to serve the European Green Deal via monitoring the natural habitats of N2000N with robots able to effectively move in dunes, grasslands, forests, and alpine terrains. NI robots will be empowered by Natural Intelligence, emerging by the interaction of environment, body and mind, leveraging on the fusion of artificial cognition and articulated soft-robotics bodies.

Principal Investigator: Diego Torricelli

Funded by H2020-EU.2.1.1 (Ref.: 101016970)

SALOEXO

Assessing SAfe LOcomotion with EXOskeletons in realistic scenarios

Dates: From 2020-11-15 to 2021-08-14

Lab: Neuromuscular Coordination Laboratory

Exoskeletons are experiencing an exponential growth due to their increasing technical readiness and demand across a wide range of application domains, such as industry, personal care and rehabilitation. Exoskeletons, by definition, have an intrinsic physical connection with the human user, which poses very demanding safety requirements.

To be widely accepted and adopted by society, exoskeletons should demonstrate their safe operation under a wide variety of real environmental conditions. eg. moving in an unstructured environment, reacting to external perturbations, etc. Nevertheless, such conditions are not considered by the current international guidelines on safety (ISO 13482, IEC 80601-2-78, ISO 14971), whose tests are either very generic or limited to static or quasistatic conditions.

The availability of tools to measure safety of interaction in realistic operating conditions represents an urgent need in the robotics community. A set of ad-hoc quantitative indicators would be of invaluable help to monitor, demonstrate and predict the safety of an exoskeleton, before and after its introduction in the market.

To address this need, the project SALOEXO will: (1) develop a set of safety indicators able to quantify the level of safety of lower limb exoskeletons in realistic scenarios and (2) identify a minimal set of sensors able to obtain such measures during real operating conditions. This approach will enable any company, researcher or end-user to collect safety-related data in the field, with real users, and establish quantitative correlation between recorded data and hazardous events. The availability of such data will in turn permit to: (1) improve the accuracy and credibility of risk assessment procedures, (2) implement online monitoring tools to avoid hazardous events, and (3) plan more concrete mitigation strategies for unavoidable hazards.

Principal Investigator: Diego Torricelli

Funded by COVR – Award Agreement – Realistic Trial ID no. RRD7218.03.01 | Call 3

Tailor

Novel modular wearable robot and neuroprosthetic devices for personalized robotic-assisted walking treatments

Dates: From 2019-01-01 to 2021-12-31

Lab: Human Locomotion Laboratory

TAILOR approach will lead to a paradigm shift in the design and prescription of assistive gait-training WR and NP for neurologically impaired people, impacting on: 1) Basic and clinical research on motor control and human-in-the-loop controllers, taking advantage of isolated robotic joints in a single (WR or NP) or hybrid configuration. 2) Patient-specific neuromusculoskeletal models will improve clinical and basic research on motor disorders, functional assessment, and virtual-human-in-the-loop design and control of WR-NP technology, optimizing resources. Furthermore, clinical applications of these models are envisioned, providing a more realistic representation of what-if clinical questions (i.e., effects of botulin toxin, or prescription of assistive devices for walking compensation). 3) User needs and expectations will provide new insights on what is actually wished by the user regarding WR-NP technology, matching expectancies and technology performance. This information will impact on the development of future WR-NP technology, as well as on the services provided with it: rehabilitation treatments, devices for personal use, etc.

Quality of life of people with walking impairments will be improved. Delivering affordable and personalized WR, NP and HR technologies will impact on user acceptance, enabling ambulation and providing therefore functional, social (inclusion, participation) and clinical (bladder and bowel, cardiorespiratory) benefits. Furthermore, people that are not suitable for current WR technology, but that have walking impairments that need the use of a wheelchair, will benefit from the TAILOR modular devices, enabling rehabilitation and functional compensation of walking with WR, NP and HR technology. In general, TAILOR will spread the use of this technology, boosting the industry of advanced technologies for walking assistance with significant healthcare savings both at individual and societal levels.

Principal Investigator: Juan C. Moreno

Funded by Ministerio de Ciencia, Investigación y Universidades con Ref. RTI2018-097290-B-C32

EXTEND

Bidirectional Hyper-Connected Neural System

Dates: From 2018-01-01 to 2021-12-31

Lab: Human Locomotion Laboratory, Neuromuscular Coordination Laboratory

Current brain and neural interfacing technologies still face significant limitations to become accessibility tools that can benefit people. On the one hand, non-invasive neural interface technology (e.g. EEG, EMG) is intrinsically unidirectional and of limited capacity. On the other hand, invasive technology (e.g. percutaneous EMG, implanted nerve electrodes or intracranial electroencephalography) while allowing two-directionality and better performance still relies on complex surgical procedures.

EXTEND aims at developing the novel concept of Bidirectional Hyper-Connected Neural Systems (BHNS) to extend the capabilities of neural interfaces with minimally invasive communication links between multiple nerves in the body and multiple external devices. EXTEND will realise BHNS by developing disruptive wireless neuromuscular (injectable) interface technology that enables distributed stimulation, sensing, processing and analysis of neuromuscular activity, the ultimate stance of the neural code of movement.

The EXTEND project will showcase the advantages of this new technology in two applications: (1) tremor management in essential tremor (ET) and Parkinson disease (PD), and (2) neural interfaced assistive wearable robots for spinal cord injury (SCI). EXTEND will also work towards a community hub that brings together stakeholders to create an innovation ecosystem that can nurture the fast development of neural interfaces around the new concept.

Principal Investigator: Filipe Barroso

Funded by H2020 Topic ICT 23-2017: Interfaces for accessibility. Reference: 779982

EUROBENCH

EUropean ROBotic framework for bipedal locomotion bENCHmarking

Dates: From 2018-01-01 to 2021-12-31

Lab: Human Locomotion Laboratory, Neuromuscular Coordination Laboratory

The EUROBENCH project aims at creating the first benchmarking framework for robotic systems in Europe. The framework will allow companies and researchers to test the performance of robots at any stage of development. The project will primarily focus on bipedal machines, i.e. exoskeletons, prosthetics and humanoids, but will be designed to be easily extended to other robotic domains. The EUROBENCH framework will be composed of:

– A methodological component, which will include methods and metrics to calculate the System Ability Levels of a robotic system. These methods will be integrated in a professional software tool to permit its wide use across domains and laboratory conditions. The main goal of this unified software is to facilitate the use of benchmarking methodology at all levels from research to pre-commercial prototyping.

– An experimental component, which will concentrate the state-of-the-art test benches in two facilities, one for wearable robots (including exoskeletons and prostheses), and one for humanoid robots. These facilities will allow companies and researchers to perform standardized tests on advanced robotic prototypes in a unique location, saving resources and time, and preparing for certification processes.

Principal Investigator: Diego Torricelli

Funded by H2020 Topic ICT 27-2017: System abilities, SME & benchmarking actions, safety certification. Reference: 779963

REGAIN

Regain of arm and hand movements in cervical spinal cord injury patients by means of spinal electrical neuromodulation assisted with an arm exoskeleton.

Dates: From 2018-10-23 to 2021-09-30

Lab: Human Locomotion Laboratory

We will develop a bottom to top approach employing animal models and human testing to determine whether or not non-invasive neuro-modulation of the cervical spinal cord concomitant with upper limb rehabilitation driven by exo-skeletons can facilitate the regain of the arm and hand functional movements in spinal cord injured patients.

We hypothesize that that spinal electrical neuro-modulation together with sensory-motor rehabilitation will facilitate the transmission and processing of the motor commands along the residual brain-to-spinal connectome leading to the regain of arm and hand movements.

The proposal follows a multi-disciplinary and translational approach; including basic scientists, engineers and clinicians, and is divided in 3 independent but related working packages (WP). WP1: Develop of a selfcontained hybrid robotic system to drive arm and hand movements rehabilitation in spinal cord injured patients. WP2: Implement the exo-skeleton to rehabilitate arm and hand movements concomitant to cervical electrical neuro-modulation in cervical spinal cord inured patients. WP3: In an animal model, using the optimal spinal stimulation parameters, identify the cellular and molecular changes in the brain-to-spinal connectome, which mediates recovery.

The results will support the development of the first feasible treatment to improve manual dexterity in cervical spinal cord inured patients, and will present a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the mechanisms underlying the recovery, providing an indispensable guideline for the application of stimulation-based therapy to SCI patients.

KEYWORDS: Spinal cord injury / plasticity / neuro-modulation / hand function / neurorehabilitation/ exo-skeleton /spinal networks

Principal Investigator: Juan C. Moreno

Funded by: Fundación La Marató de TV3

INBOTS

Inclusive Robotics for a better society

Dates: From 2018-01-01 to 2021-06-30

Lab: Human Locomotion Laboratory, Neuromuscular Coordination Laboratory

The main challenge that INBOTS wants to overcomes is the lack of a clear understanding and communication between all the involved stakeholders. These limitations hinder current efforts to successfully discuss and agree on the many important technical and non-technical aspects in the field. Therefore, with the purpose of optimizing the outcomes of the coordinate and support action, INBOTS will focus mainly on Interactive Robots, which we define as any robot that is interacting in close proximity with humans.

In this context, the overall objective of this project is to create a community hub that can bring together experts to debate and create a responsible research and innovation paradigm for robotics. To this end, INBOTS provides a platform to establish a working synergy between four pillars that covers all stakeholders in Interactive Robotics: the technical expertise pillar, the business expertise pillar, the ethical, legal and socioeconomic expertise pillar, as well as the end-users, policy makers and general public pillar. Therefore, the project strives at coordinating and supporting actions aimed at building bridges among these pillars to promote debate and create a responsible research and innovation paradigm that will potentiate EU leadership on robotics.

Principal Investigator:Juan C. Moreno

Funded by H2020 Topic ICT 28-2017: Robotics Competitions, coordination and support. Reference: 780073

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