Some of our projects have opened new avenues: PHRIENDS introduced physical human-robot interaction and safety measures in robotics; VIACTORS presented the first Variable Impedance Actuators (VIA) replicating some of the properties of natural muscles in robot actuators; THE Hand Embodied exploited the concept of synergies in human motor control to realize a principled simplification of robot hands, which the ERC SOFTHANDS project has transformed in a viable technology for adaptive grasping with versatile, anthropomorphic, simple and robust robots hands. From these roots, new projects have branched out: WEARHAP explored principled simplification of haptic interfaces; WALKMAN extended the theory and technology of soft robotic grasping to loco-manipulation of humanoid robots, while SOFTPRO is applying our ideas to prosthetics and rehabilitation of the upper limb of amputees and stroke patients. Most recent activities of our group are focusing on even closer integration of humans and robots into true bionic systems. A very ambitious ERC Synergy grant "Natural Bionics" will see our group cooperating with world-leading reconstructive surgeon Oskar Aszman (University Hospital Vienna) and neurointerface scientist Dario Farina (Imperial College London) to realize the very first prostheses directly interfaced with the central nervous system via neural connections to the spine. Our research in Symbiotic Bionics is developing new seamless interfaces between normal people and robots, making it possible to create a symbiosis of human, artificial intelligence and artificial bodies with more capabilities than the sum of the parts. Our symbiotic avatars are used for remotely assisting the elderly and the needy, for relieving operators from dangerous and tiresome tasks, and for search and rescue operations in disaster scenarios (including in the real earthquake of the Amatrice region).
During the global Covid-19 emergency our lab designed and promoted an opensource DIY telepresence robot to let isolated patients communicate via video call with their relatives. LHF Connect was realised in collaboration with the University of Pisa.