Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences Unit (RBCS) is merging top-level neuroscience research and top-level robotics research by sharing the study of physical and social interactions in humans and machines.
Our research aim to advance knowledge of ourselves through the investigation of perceptual and cognitive human abilities.
Evaluating the technological aspects of our work, we are able to transform scientific results by developing new devices and technologies such as hardware and software for machine intelligence, tools for quantitative evaluation of human performance in healthy and disabled persons and sensory and motor rehabilitation tools and protocols.
Moreover, RBCS activities produce social outcomes thanks to supportive and rehabilitation new technologies able to improve social inclusion and the quality of life particularly of the weak components of our society. A network of formalized collaborations established with clinical and rehabilitation centres allows our group to work directly with patients.
Our focus is on interaction science with particular attention toward rehabilitation devices for social use. Through interaction science we are investigating how humans and robots exchange information, how the animate and inanimate worlds get in contacts through speech and gestures.
RBCS scientists share an infrastructure supporting psychophysical, behavioural and neurophysiological research. Experimental set-up includes devices for motion tracking with force platforms, equipment for transcranial magnetic stimulation and electrophysiological recording (EEG and EMG). A full-fledged iCub humanoid robot is available for Cognitive Robotics experiments and human-robot interaction studies. Ad hoc experimental set-ups and protocols, as well as rehabilitation devices are developed by the mechanical and electronic facilities.
The research activity is articulated into four branches:
The Motor Learning, Assistive and Rehabilitation Robotics group focuses on Robotics and Interaction Technologies for Neuroscience and Neurorehabilitation. In particular, research is articulated as follows: Developing cutting edge mechatronic and robotic technology to enhance/augment human-robot interaction with a special focus on robot aided rehabilitation; Studying the neural plasticity that underlies the organization of the human sensorimotor system in skill acquisition; Integrating technology in the clinical/home environment developing new standards of assessment.
The aim of our research is to investigate the sensory and motor mechanisms underlying mutual understanding in human-human interaction, with the technological goal of designing robots that can naturally cooperate with people in carrying out everyday tasks. The peculiarity of our approach is that robots, rather than being just the final goal of the research, are used as the ideal tool to investigate social interaction in a principled way.
The research activity at the DTI is focused on the hand, the haptic perception of objects and haptic exploration of the environment, the control of finger forces in multi-finger grasp and, more generally, physical interaction with objects or person. The lab has developed various devices and setup based on robotic and haptic technology and has expertise in kinematic and dynamic analysis of movement, behavioural and psychophysical techniques and the modelling of perceptual and decisional processes.
We investigate how sensory deprived individuals compensate missing sensory channels by vicarious modalities. Our focus is on sensory enhancement and how to achieve it with novel assistive technologies, mainly aimed at the construction of cognitive maps. Our methodology serves to build hardware/software platforms to decrease the digital divide, therefore increasing social inclusion. We focus on three main topics
Sensory Substitution: How much spatial knowledge depends on visual experience? We investigate the neural and behavioural correlates of tactile spatial representations.
Small Area Haptic Device: Are we able to understand simple tactile virtual objects? We study how information can be coded, displayed and understood by humans through low-tech haptic displays.
Sensory Supplementation: Is it possible to improve the spatial soundscape of hearing impaired individuals? We study how binaural acoustic feedback can be used in context where hearing loss prevents proper spatial awareness.
- TMS LAB (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Laboratory) equipped with MagStim stimulator Rapid2 and Bistim. Power 1401 high-performance data acquisition interface (Cambridge Electronic Design)
- EEG LAB (Electroencephalography Laboratory) equipped with 64 channel BrainAmp and two BioSemi 64ch device for testing dual subject simultaneous EEG.
- MOCAP LAB (Motion Capture Laboratory) with ten near infrared camera (VICON), three force platform (AMTI) and 32 channel EMG Wireless (COMETA)
- OPTOTRACK (NDI) Motion Capture device using active infrared markers.
- HRI LAB (Human-Robot Interaction Laboratory) equipped with an iCub humanoid platform.
- HPL LAB (Haptic Perception Laboratory) equipped with commercial and special purpose Haptic interfaces to study human perception and rehabilitation
- The ALLSPEAK project (automatic speech recognition App for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients, granted by AriSLA) aims at allowing ALS patients to verbally communicate their primary needs throughout the whole course of their disease. It employs a machine learning approach in order to fit to patients’ residual voice production skills - PI: Alberto Inuggi.
- BLINDPAD project: For visually impaired people it is difficult to digitally get graphical contents increasingly conveyed through sight. The sense of touch can potentially bridge the gap, as it is crucial – in absence of vision – for understanding abstract concepts and acquiring information about the surroundings. The objective of the project is to make graphical contents accessible through touch by building and field-testing a Personal Assistive Device for blind and visually impaired people (BLINDPAD).
- The GLASSENSE project (Wearable Technologies for Sensory Supplementation) aims at building novel devices to assist hearing-impaired and visually-impaired people in daily tasks, improving their acoustic spatial awareness and providing spatialized tactile feedback.
- TAMO project is a minimalist tactile device displaying the height of virtual objects on a fingertip, using just one actuator. TAMO exploits height perception, combined with hand movements/proprioception, to display 3D shapes. TAMO helps with developing mental maps from virtual objects. Target applications : Computer-aided Rehabilitation, orientation and mobility for blind and visually impaired users, education and entertainment
- U-VIP line: Long lasting collaboration with the researchers of the U-VIP in the field of sensorimotor integration, devices for sensory rehabilitation and social inclusion.
- Ongoing collaboration in the field of Cognitive Robotics and Human-Robot interaction with University of Osaka (Y. Nagai, M.Asada), University of Genova (A. Bisio, F. Odone, A. Verri, N.Noceti), Heriot-Watt University (K. Lohan).
- Collaborations with Northwestern University (F.A. Mussa Ivaldi) on motor control and neuroreahabilitation and Universität Paderborn (K. Rohlfing) on anticipation in infancy.
- Collaboration with University of Lethbridge (M. Tata) on attentional system for robots.
- Joint Lab with Pediatric Hospital Gaslini plan to start up a multidisciplinary approach to Pediatric Orthopedics and Neural Rehabilitation using the technology developed by RBCS
- Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia " Fondazione David Chiossone per ciechi e ipovedenti"