updated CV + new publication

Hello there! No new content this week, just two important updates:

  1. I’ve updated my Curriculum Vitae, that is provided as usual in english, french and italian;
  2. I’ve got a new publication! The article, which is currently in press, can be accessed via this webpage (journal: Elsevier Medical Engineering & Physics).

mep

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ASU Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop

the 4th ASU Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop will be supported by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust and hosted by Arizona State University

Dates: February 8-9, 2016
Location: Memorial Union, ASU Campus, Tempe

The main theme of this workshop is rehabilitation robotics. However, the workshop will include a wide range of topics aimed at improving quality of life and covering the multidisciplinary field of robotics, including human robot interaction and human motor control. The main goals of the workshop are to discuss the state of handcontrolthe art in rehabilitation robotics and to identify the main challenges in this field.

This workshop is supported by a Piper Health Solutions grant to the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU).

This workshop is open to:

  • Hand_ImageResearchers in the fields of robotics, rehabilitation, assistive devices, and physical human-robot interaction
  • Undergraduate and graduate students in the fields of engineering, medicine, physical rehabilitation, and nursing
  • Clinicians and therapists in neuro-rehabilitation
  • General public

The event is free, however registration is required for admittance to the workshop.

the chairless chair by Noonee

source: L. Seward’s post on this website

Coming out of NCCR Robotics lab, the Bio-Inspired Robotics laboratory at University of Cambridge (previously at ETH Zurich, Switzerland), Noonee® is a revolutionary start-up business aiming to solve healthcare problems within the manufacturing industry. The idea is to provide an exoskeleton that supports the weight of the user only when they feel tired , rather than continuously taking on this weight – meaning that the wearer is using their muscles and actively, rather than passively, sitting.

P8iHDpcWithin the manufacturing industry, keeping employees healthy has been a major concern and challenge for many companies around the world for a long time. Jobs often involve spending long periods of time bending and crouching and as a result can leave staff with substantial back and knee problems. Of 215 million industry sector workers in the EU, a staggering 85 million are reported to suffer from muscle related disorders. Market solutions that are currently available may also pose problems as they limit short term tiredness by taking all the weight of the user, which can lead to muscle weakening. What is needed is a product that can support staff working on production lines while keeping them healthy. The “chair” is not a chair as we know it, but more of an exoskeleton for the legs with a belt to attach it to the hips and straps that wrap around the thighs. The slim structure has joints that allow the wearer to move freely, but when the wearer is in a position they wish to stay in for a long time (e.g. crouching under a car on a production line), this position can be fixed, meaning that the wearer does not need to use the same muscle groups for long periods of time to hold the position. The advantage of such a structure is that it can be worn anywhere and can also be used when standing and walking. This reduces the space required as compared to a traditional chair and reduces the hassle when compared to other solutions, such as chairs that are strapped to the user.

imageThe Chairless Chair® is currently still in prototype and the current version requires the user to fix a position by crouching down into the required position and pushing a button. It is hoped that future iterations of the Chairless Chair® will be actuated to allow the system to become intelligent and understand the intention of the user, allowing it to be fixed into position without any additional input from the wearer.

2014 Robot Statistics

The latest robot statistics for 2014 and forecast 2015-2018 were released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). Again, 2014 was the most successful year ever for new robot installations with the highest number of industrial and service robots ever sold. A useful overview report is available at this webpage (main homepage here).

A few major facts:

  • In 2014, robot sales increased by 29% to 229,261 units, by far the highest level ever recorded for one year. Sales of industrial robots to all industries increased compared to 2013. The automotive parts suppliers and the electrical/electronics industry were the main drivers of the growth. China has considerably expanded its leading position as the biggest market with a share of 25% of the total supply in 2014.
  • Asia (including Australia and New Zealand) was by far the biggest robot market with about 139,300 industrial robots sold in 2014, 41% higher than in 2013. This was the highest sales level ever recorded for the third year in a row. Industrial robot sales to the second largest market, Europe, increased by 5% to almost 45,600 units (a new peak). About 32,600 industrial robots were shipped to the Americas, 8% more than in 2013, reaching again a new peak for the third year in a row.
  • There are five major markets representing 70% of the total sales volume in 2014: China, Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea and Germany. Almost 29,300 industrial robots (+17%) were sold to Japan reaching the highest sales level in that country since 2008. Since 2013, Japan is the second largest market regarding annual sales. Robot sales in Japan followed a decreasing trend between 2005 (with the peak of 44,000 robot units) and 2009 (when sales dropped to only 12,800 units). Between 2010 and 2014, robot sales increased by 8% on average per year (CAGR).
  • Italy is the second largest robot market in Europe after Germany. Worldwide, it ranked 7th in 2014. Total sales of industrial robots were up by 32%, to about 6,200 units in 2014. This was the second highest level ever recorded for one year after 2001. This is a clear sign of economic recovery in Italy. Between 2010 and 2013, annual robot sales to Italy were rather weak due to the critical economic situation. The French robot market also recovered substantially in 2014, by 36% to almost 3,000 units. Sales to Turkey continued to increase in 2014. Robot sales in the Czech Republic and in Poland increased substantially, while other Central and Eastern European markets were down in 2014.
  • In Spain, sales of industrial robots decreased by 16% to about 2,300 units in 2014. After considerable investments in Spain between 2011 and 2013, sales to the automotive industry were significantly down in 2014, while almost all other industries continued to increase robot investments substantially. Sales of industrial robots to the United Kingdom further decreased in 2014 to almost 2,100 units after considerable investments of the automotive industry in 2011 and 2012. Robot sales to Belgium/Netherlands, which had followed an increasing trend up to 2013, decreased in 2014. Sales to Sweden were also down in 2014.

robotstats

welcome to Japan

Tokyo-University-of-Agriculture-and-TechnologyHere I am, in Tokyo for the next seven months. I’ll work as Project Assistant Professor at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. It is actually a postdoc, which means that I’m here to learn. I have my research project and the opportunity to give some classes to BSc students. I’ll do my best to succeed 🙂

The previous scientific experience I lived, which was also the first one after obtaining my PhD degree, was not exactly as I expected… But I’m happy about it since I learnt useful things (basically, how to program in C# and how to create a software interface in Unity 3D). I’ll update my CV accordingly as soon as possible.

Tokyo-Drawning

il neurone sintetico vuole essere una rivoluzione

da questo articolo de La Repubblica (13 luglio 2015)

Funziona come un trasformatore, convertendo segnali chimici in elettrici e quindi di nuovo chimici: in futuro il minuscolo dispositivo potrebbe essere impiantato per e utilizzato per trattare disturbi neurologici

Nel nostro cervello abbiamo qualcosa come 86 miliardi di neuroni, ognuno dei quali può formare migliaia di sinapsi. In questa enorme e complicata rete viaggiano e trovano la strada (senza quasi mai perdersi) le informazioni più diverse: da quelle visive, a quelle olfattive e uditive, a quelle che codificano un movimento, un pensiero, un ricordo. E tutto si realizza grazie ai neuroni, le cellule del sistema nervoso, che raccolgono un segnale chimico (da un neurotrasmettitore), lo trasformano in un segnale elettrico (il potenziale d’azione che viaggia lungo l’assone, il cordone dei neuroni) e lo riconvertono in un segnale chimico (un nuovo neurotrasmettitore) all’estremità opposta. Semplificando e in termini generali, è questa la catena di eventi che permette ad un’informazione di viaggiare.

Di recente, un team di ricercatori del Swedish Medical Nanoscience Centre (SMNC) del Karolinska Institutet è riuscito a mimarla creando un neurone sintetico. Sottile e lungo pochi centimetri (poco più di un polpastrello), il neurone biomimetico presentato sulle pagine di Biosensors & Bioelectronics non è fatto di materiale vivente (biologico), eppure riesce perfettamente a comunicare con cellule umane. A spiegare come funziona è Agneta Richter-Dahlfors, la ricercatrice a capo del progetto: “Il nostro neurone artificiale è costituito di polimeri conduttivi (materiali in grado di condurre corrente elettrica) e funziona come un neurone umano“. Il neurone sintetico è costituito di due parti:

  • una sensibile, costituita da un biosensore, che percepisce cambiamenti di segnali chimici;
  • ed una che trasforma questi cambiamenti in un segnale elettrico, tradotto nuovamente in un segnale chimico attraverso un costrutto assimilabile a una pompa ionica.

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Se le due estremità del neurone vengono collegate a due piastre di Petri diverse (le normali piastre da laboratorio) è possibile indurre un cambiamento chimico nella prima e osservare il rilascio di un neurotrasmettitore nella seconda. Tutto questo è possibile perché il segnale elettrico generato da un cambiamento nell’ambiente chimico nella prima capsula viene interpretato e utilizzato per guidare il rilascio di un altro trasmettitore all’altra estremità del neurone sintetico, capace di avere effetti su cellule presenti nell’altra capsula. Più o meno come farebbe un neurone reale. I ricercatori sperano ora di riuscire a miniaturizzare il dispositivo, così che possa essere utilizzato per trattare disturbi neurologici. L’idea, infatti, è che uno o più neuroni sintetici possano essere stimolati – e quindi produrre un effetto – a partire da cambiamenti chimici dell’ambiente e non solo elettrici. Dispositivi analoghi potrebbero essere impiantati e usati per recuperare funzioni perse in seguito a danno neuronale o magari essere utilizzati per produrre degli effetti a distanza, sfruttando la tecnologia wireless, spiega Richter-Dahlfors: “Il biosensore potrebbe infatti essere collocato in una parte del corpo, e innescare il rilascio di neurotrasmettitori in luoghi distanti. Potremmo immaginare sia un sistema autoregolato sia controllato da un telecomando, immaginando nuove strategie per il trattamento dei disturbi neurologici“.

D T. Simon, K. C. Larsson, D. Nilsson, G. Burström, D. Galter, M. Berggren, A. Richter-Dahlfors, “An organic electronic biomimetic neuron enables auto-regulated neuromodulation“, Biosensors & Bioelectronics, first online 22 April 2015, Volume 71, 15 September 2015, Pages 359–364.