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    Research Topics

    Robotic manipulation
    Neurophysiological studies on human manipulation demonstrated that humans exhibit instinctive reactions to safely manipulate objects under load perturbations and unexpected surface conditions. They instinctively adjust the grip force on the basis of tactile perception, which provides information about the object properties such as friction, compliance and shape, as well as contact status. Roboticists have been trying to replicate on robots such capability since many years, by proposing various technologies for tactile sensing and methods for slipping detection and avoidance. The Robotics Lab is contributing to advancing manipulation capabilities of robots with new force/tactile sensors and new slipping control algorithms, that allow both safe grasping and in-hand manipulation of objects of unknown weight and shape. In-hand manipulation is certainly one of the most challenging problems in robotic manipulation. Solutions to this problem depend on the specific device used to grab the object, but nowadays, the trend is to exploit not only the gripper but also external constraints, such as other objects in the environment or external forces, like gravity. This allows a robot to manipulate an object even with very simple grippers, like a parallel gripper. Nevertheless, even for a simple grasping task, which aims at grabbing the object with a given fixed orientation or for executing a controlled slip, information on the contact between the fingers of the gripper and the object is relevant.

    Related projects: DEXMARTWIRESREFILLS

    Human-robot interaction
    Robots are coming out of the factories and they started sharing their workspace with humans. Therefore, safety of human-robot interaction is becoming a primary objective of research and technological development in robotics.
    Our research focuses on the development of new methodologies for short range monitoring of the robot workspace and for collision avoidance and reaction based on multimodal perception.
    A first perception modality is the proximity sensing and in particular a discrete number of proximity sensors installed on a mobile manipulator, not only located on the mobile base but also in some points distributed along the kinematic chain of the robotic arm so as to build a sort of "safety volume" around the whole robot. The adoption of proximity information seems useful also because does not require the environment where the robot acts equipped with special sensors that have then to be interfaced with the robot control unit, but all what the robot needs is aboard. The local adjustment to the planned trajectories fully exploits all the degrees of freedom available thus achieving the coordination between the arm and the mobile base, a big challenge in research on mobile manipulation.
    A second perception modality on which we are currently working is the combination of depth and thermal cameras so as to distinguish more easily humans from the background in dynamic scenes. The advancements in such research area would lead to increase the number of applications where robots and humans can safely share their workspace, such during assembly operations in the manufacturing industries.
    A third perceptual approach is the adoption of distributed tactile sensing on robot bodies, like the artificial skin (link al video skin) developed at Vanvitelli. The device is the only tactile skin in the world that is able to measure the contact force vector (both normal and shear components) in a distributed contact area. The artificial skin has been adopted to detect and react to unexpected collisions as well as for robot intuitive programming.
    Related projects: SAPHARI – LABOR

    Sensors for artificial robotic hands
    In advanced robotics, development of anthropomorphic robotic hands is a topic of major relevance. The problems to tackle in the design and development of sensory systems for such robotic devices are numerous. They are related to the complexity of the system and to the reduced space available to host actuators, sensors and mechanisms. The Robotics Lab developed the whole sensory system of the DEXMART hand, which include joint angle displacement sensors, tendon tension sensors and fingertip force/tactile sensors. All sensor solutions, which have been demonstrated to be effective and to satisfy all the design requirements, are based on the exploitation of optoelectronic components to minimize power consumption and sensitivity to electromagnetic disturbances. Suitable calibration algorithms have also been developed to extract the useful information from the sensors. A European patent application has been submitted for the tactile sensor. The same technology has been further improved to produce sensorized fingers for commercial grippers to manipulate a large variety of objects, including electrical wires that are greatly deformable.
    Related projects: DEXMARTWIRES – REFILLS

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