My biomedical and robotics engineering multidisciplinary background, along with the experience gained in the course of my doctoral program, allow me to accomplish different tasks. My main research interests are briefly summarized below.
Development of a lower limb exoskeleton for partial body weight support
My postdoctoral research activity carried out in Japan focused on the design and manufacturing of a lower limb exoskeleton for partial body weight support. Such assistive devices was intended to be proposed to the following two communities:
- those people who suffer from muscle weakness problems (ie: upon long periods of hospitalisation, after injuries or accidents);
- those subjects who need specific rehabilitation programs where the residual mobility capabilities need to be progressively enhanced by lightweight and energy-efficient devices.
The key idea consisted in joining the support provided by crutches and walkers to the advantages brought by a legged structure. The proposed lower limb exoskeleton should be as much portable as possible; partial body weight support should be continuously provided to the patient, so as to relieve a part of the efforts experienced by the lower limb muscles during daily life activities. The design must be at the same time robust and efficient, in order to provide support without affecting the user’s posture, balance and stability. Gait analysis is meant to be performed in real time during normal walking by processing the data of specific sensors (embedded in the shoe soles) collected by a compact Arduino system.
DESIGN AND ASSEMBLY OF 3D-PRINTED ROBOTS, COMPONENTS AND MECHANISMS
A small 3R planar robot was entirely printed out in plastic and assembled together with compact servomotors and Arduino components. Other components were designed and 3D-printed for the purpose of assembling and testing efficient mechanisms before final manufacturing.
SOFTWARE Development for hand rehabilitation
A 3D interface (Fisio) developed in Unity3D (C# language) is proposed for the purpose of processing in real time the data collected by one Leap Motion Controller connected to a common personal computer. The movements required by the rehabilitation program can be recorded by the physiotherapist and saved by the software as a set of reference models. The user is asked to select the movement they wish to practice via the Leap Motion Controller, thus without any invasive external device. Throughout the whole rehabilitation exercise, the software is able to detect in real time the orientation of the user’s hand phalanges and palm; those data are compared to the reference model (white hand in the figure above) and the accuracy of the performed movement is shown in real time by means of three different colors (green, orange and red segments in the figure above). The speed and the difficulty of the exercises can be progressively adjusted to the user’s needs: this allows to continuously provide challenging exercises as well as to keep track of the user’s improvements in accuracy. Besides being extremely low-cost and non-invasive, Fisio is effectively user-friendly and is mainly intended to speed up the whole rehabilitation process.