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Friday, January 06, 2012

Robots at the 2011 EU Innovation Convention

Hector meets EU president Barroso
Robot companion Hector was one of five robot stars at the first EC Innovation convention Expo helt December 5-6, 2011 in Brussels. The event gathered more than 1200 participants involved in the innovation chain, including high-level policy makers, leading CEOs, deans of universities and research centres, bankers, venture capitalists, top researchers and innovators.
Robot Companion for the Elderly
EU President Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Marie Geoghegan-Quinn got a short demonstration of the yellow mobile robot companion  by Prof. Badii, University of Reading, UK, the Co-ordinator of the CompanionAble project. The 10 million Euro project, started in 2008 to develop support for the elderly living alone at home. At the heart of the project is Hector, a mobile robot, who is designed to become a companion for elderly people in their intelligent home environment. Hector can engage in social interaction (via videoconferencing), cognitive training, health and safety monitoring, entertainment and reminders, thus helping to increase the quality of life of the elderly.
Swarms of Cooperating Robots 

Swarmanoid, AILab, Vrije Univ. Belgium
The E-Swarm project, started in 2010 and funded with 2 million Euro by the European Research Council - Advanced Grants program, aims to develop a rigorous engineering methodology for the design and implementation of Swarmanoid , an artificial heterogeneous swarm robotics system composed of three different robot types: foot-bots, hand-bots and eye-bots. The project was initially developed thanks to a FET Open project and is coordinated by Prof. Marco Dorigo, AI Lab of the Université Libre de Bruxelle. Swarm robotics is inspired by the observation of social insects (e.g. ants, termites, wasps and bees) which stand as fascinating examples of how collectively intelligent systems can be generated from a large number of simple individuals. As in their natural counterpart, the robots used in swarm robotics are relatively simple, with local and limited sensing and communication abilities. It is a natural consequence of these individual characteristics that the overall systems are robust against failures of individuals and scalable with group size.

Robotic Technologies in Service of Vessel Inspections    
Air-2-Air helicopter, MINOAS, Italy
The 3 million Euro MINOAS project, started in 2009 and coordinated by RINA S.p.A., the operative company of the Registro Italiano Navale, proposes an innovative system concept for vessel inspections, assembling a fleet of robots and a set of tools aiding the surveyor in inspection tasks. The system includes several robot typologies, each with specific motion and task capabilities. For instance, there is a quadrotor helicopter  dedicated to the overall visual survey, a light crawler for close-up surveys and a heavy crawler for thickness measurements. Tools include image processing algorithms for  detecting defects. Some robots will be live exhibited at our stand; videos will support the presentation of the system.
A New Generation of High Dexterity Soft-Bodied Octopus-Inspired Robots 
Octopus arm, SSSA, Italy
The 10 million Euro OCTOPUS project, started in 2009 and coordinated by Scuola Superiore Sant' Anna, Italy,  studies the principles that give rise to the octopus sensory-motor abilities to define novel design principles and technologies for soft-bodied robots. The new technologies expected to result from the IP concern actuation (soft actuators), sensing (distributed flexible tactile sensors), control and robot architectures (distributed control, coordination of many dof), materials (variable stiffness), mechanisms (soft-bodied hydrostat structures), kinematics models. The final robotic octopus prototype will be capable of locomotion on different substrates, of squeezing into small apertures, of dextrous manipulation by coordinating the eight arms, of anchoring in order to exert forces on external environment; of controlling a flexible structure with virtually infinite dof.
Driverless Vehicle from Italy to China
Autonomous Vehicles, Vislab, Italy
The 1.75 million Euro OFAV project, started in 2008 by Prof. Alberto Broggi, Vislab University of Parma, with the goal to develop an open architecture for future autonomous vehicles to become a standard platform shared by car makers in the design of next generation intelligent vehicles.  To advance in this field, extensive tests must be performed in a large variety of scenarios. In 2010 a unique test was conceived: four autonomous cars left Italy and drove autonomously to Shanghai, China, after 13.000+ km and 3 months of driverless operations.

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