Ganesh Gowrishankar

CNRS-AIST Joint Robotics Laboratory
Laboratory of Computer Science, Robotics and Microelectronics of Montpellier

Robots extending human bodies: New challenges for robot control and neuroscience.

Over the last three decades, robots that used to be behind cages in industries, have come increasingly closer to humans. We are now at a stage where robots are starting to change the human body, providing functional and sensory augmentation- in the form of exoskeletons, and robotic limbs as prosthetics or supernumerary limbs. This new generation of human-robot interaction comes with new challenges for robot control and neuroscience. For robot control, the issue of understanding the user intention and human perception of the robot becomes critical due to the inevitable proximity of the robot with the human. For neuroscience, these robots modify the human perception of their ‘self’, and their ‘embodiment’ is known to affect human perception of thier body, as well as the environment around them. How and to what extent, this in turn affects the human behavior and cognition still remains an open question. In this talk I will discuss about some of the robotics and neuroscientific experiments we are conducting to understand these issues and towards the development of robot controllers that understand the human user, and which will be crucial for the control of these new devices.


Tamar Makin and Dani Clode

University College London
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

An interdisciplinary perspective on motor augmentation from neuroscience and design

By studying the neural correlates of robotic hand augmentation, we are exploring the boundaries of neuroplasticity seeing how it can be harnessed to improve the usability and control of augmentation devices. Dani Clode – designer of the Third Thumb, and Tamar Makin – leader of the London Plasticity Lab, each discuss their research and perspectives within the field of prosthetics that has led to this unique collaboration and exploration of motor augmentation in the brain.

Tamar Makin is a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University College London, UK and leader of the Plasticity Lab. Her main interest is in understanding how our body representation changes in the brain (brain plasticity). Her primary model for this work is studying individuals with a hand loss. Tamar graduated from the Brain and Behavioural Sciences programme at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2009. She was then awarded several career development fellowships to establish her research programme on brain plasticity in amputees at the University of Oxford, first as Research Fellow and later as a Principle Investigator. In 2016 Tamar joined the faculty of UCL to continue this work. She is currently supported by the European Research Council (Starting Grant) and the Wellcome Trust (Senior Research Fellow). 

Dani Clode is an upper-limb prosthetic, augmentation and product designer, the founder of Dani Clode Design and a Senior Research Technician at the Plasticity Lab. Dani has a multi-disciplinary approach to her work that investigates the future architecture and perception of our bodies. Incorporating new materials and design processes, the mechanics of the human body and robotics, Dani works to challenge the perception and boundaries of prosthetic design and extend the human form. Alongside neuroscience research with the Plasticity Lab, Dani’s Third Thumb augmentation and prosthetic work has been exhibited world-wide, including four permanent museum displays – in the German Museum of Technology, Museum of Applied Arts Vienna, Futurium Berlin and the National Museum of Scotland. 

Harry Asada

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Integrated Voluntary-Reactive Control of a Human-SuperLimb Hybrid System for Hemiplegic Patient Support



Simona Crea

Scuola superiore Sant’Anna
The BioRobotics Institute

Design and assessment of the MATE exoskeleton

One major barrier to adoption for industrial exoskeletons is the lack of concrete evidence that the technology is effective, acceptable, and usable by workers in the target scenarios. In addition to the specific characteristics of any device, the selection and proper definition of the application could strongly influence the successful deployment of the technology in industrial scenarios. In my talk, I will discuss the main biomechanical and safety requirements that have been considered for the design of the MATE exoskeleton (mate.comau.com), as well as its validation path. Indeed, since the first development phase, the MATE has gone through a continuous testing process with human subjects to assess its effectiveness and potential undesired effects on the users. In addition to initial in-lab tests (Pacifico et al. RAM 2020), we carried out “on-site” tests with experienced workers, with the final goal to verify the effects of using the device in real or realistic application scenarios and thus, identify suitable applications for the successful deployment of the technology (Pacifico, et al., WeRob 2020). On-site evaluation studies included a comprehensive set of metrics combining instrumental parameters (electromyographic recordings on the main upper-limb muscles) and perception-related parameters (usability and acceptability questionnaires).

Simona Crea received her Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pisa in 2012, and her Ph.D. in Biorobotics from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, in December 2015. Since April 2017 she has been an Assistant Professor at The BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, where she works on wearable robotics. Her research interests include the development and experimental validation of control strategies for exoskeletons to assist movements in rehabilitation, workplace scenarios, and daily-life activities. Currently, she is the Scientific Coordinator of the HABILIS project (funded by INAIL, the Italian National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work), whose goal is to develop a novel exoskeleton for the orthopedic rehabilitation of the hand in patients who suffered a workplace injury. She serves as an Associate Editor for IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters and Wearable Technologies (Cambridge University Press), and has served as Guest Editor for different special issues on robotics journals. She is a co-founder and advisor for scientific investigations of the spin-off company IUVO (www.iuvo.company).

Lorenzo Masia

Heidelberg University
Institute of Computer Engineering

Soft Wearable Exosuits: Design and Real Time Control

Soft wearable exosuits have been introduced in the last decade as possible candidates to overcome the limitations from devices using rigid structures: the exoskeletons. Despite the Exosuits initially promised tangible improvements, yet their soft wearable architecture presents strong drawbacks, placing this technology more in a complementary position rather than on a higher step of the podium respect to their predecessors. Motivations can be found in their soft structure which not only undershoots in terms of assistance delivery respect to the exoskeletons, but also introduces non-linear dynamic behaviours making difficult the formalization of a robust control implementation and substantially hampering the matching with the wearer’s biomechanics. During my speech I will introduce the progress from our research on soft wearable exosuits for upper limb, by presenting novel solutions on mechanical design of both harness and actuation, novel implementation of control strategies to master the non-linear behaviours and to provide a more symbiotic interface between the exosuits and the wearer.

Lorenzo Masia graduated in Mechanical Engineering at “Sapienza” University of Rome in 2003 and in 2007. He accomplished his PhD in “Mechanical Measurement for Engineering” at the University of Padua. He started his path in robotics spending two years at the Mechanical Engineering Dept. of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (from Jan- 2005 to Dec 2006) working at the Newman Lab for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation. He was then postdoctoral researcher and team leader at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in the Robotics Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department, and He started his academic path as Assistant Professor at the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) of Singapore (2013-2018). He was Associate Professor in Biodesign at the Department of Biomechanical Engineering of the University of Twente (The Netherlands) from June 2018 to March 2019. Now, since April 2019, He is Full Professor in Medical Technology at Heidelberg University (Germany) at the Institute of Computer Engineering or Institut für Technische Informatik (ZITI), leading the ARIES Lab (Assistive Robotics and Interactive ExoSuits). With more than 15 years of experience in the field of Haptics, Robot-Aided Rehabilitation and Wearable Technology, Professor Masia and his team were awarded multiple times in the leading conference in Biorobotics and Robotic Rehabilitation winning an IEEE Best Paper Award (IEEE ICORR2011), two IEEE Best Student Paper Awards (IEEE ICORR2015 and IEEE Biorob2016) and the IEEE Best Presentation Award (IEEE Biorob2020). He has been appointed three times Program Chair for the IEEE International Conference in Rehabilitation Robotics (ICORR) 2015, IEEE Biorobotics and Biomechatronic Conference (BIOROB) 2016 and International Conference on Neurorehabilitation (ICNR 2018). He served as Chairman for Workshop/Tutorial for the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (IEEE ICRA 2017), and He was the Co-Program Chair of IEEE ICORR 2017 (London, UK), and Co-Program Chair, Editor in Chief and Editor of Publication for IEEE Biorob 2018. He currently serves as Associate Editor for IEEE TNSRE, IEEE RAL, JNER and WEARABLE TECHNOLOGIES.

Divya Srinivasan

Virginia Tech
Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

The human physical experience in a whole-body powered exoskeleton: an examination of physical demands, movement strategies, and human-robot synchrony

Brief Abstract: This talk will address our work on human factors and biomechanics involving one of the first viable whole-body powered exoskeleton prototypes (WB-PEXO). Human operators were trained to utilize the WB-PEXO to perform a range of low-moderately demanding industrially relevant load manipulation tasks including load carriage, lift/lower and push/pull. Muscle activity from major muscle groups, movement control strategies for utilizing the exoskeleton to accomplish tasks, operators’ subjective experience of the exoskeleton (comfort and acceptance), and human-robot synchrony were assessed using a series of experiments. Feedback from relevant industries in assembly and logistics was also sought, in terms of near-term adoption potential. Highlights from this work, as well as next steps, in terms of exoskeleton design evolutions, and potential industrial use-case applications, will be discussed.


Sascha Wischniewski and Patricia Rosen

German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Baua)
Department of Human Factors, Ergonomics

Human-Robot Interaction and Occupational Safety and Health: What we know for the human-centered deployment of collaborative robotic systems

Technological developments in robotics have led to new forms of interaction with these systems in the world of work. Leaving the cages, mobile systems with lightweight robots allow new forms of close interaction and find their way into new hybrid working teams. Within the paper five requirement analyses of different companies in the manufacturing sector will be presented originating from the research projects SOPHIA and Hybr-iT. They represent the expectations of people involved in the use of these systems before implementation. The analysed expectations focus on aspects like dialogue design, task allocation and technology acceptance. Furthermore, data from the third European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER 3) of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) will be presented showing the current diffusion of technology in Europe and associated risks identified by the companies when implementing these systems.

The SOPHIA (Socio-Physical Interaction Skills for Cooperative Human-Robot Systems in Agile Production) project receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871237. The research and development project Hybr-iT (Hybrid teams in adaptable, cyber-physical manufacturing environments) was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and overseen by the German Aerospace Center DLR Project Management Agency, Software Systems and Knowledge Technologies (funding code: 01IS16026H).

Patricia Helen Rosen is a research associate within the unit “Human Factors, Economics” at the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA). She holds a psychology degree and has broad knowledge in working in multidisciplinary teams. Her fields of expertise are human-centred workplace design and human-robot interaction (HRI). In her research, she focuses on cognitive ergonomics in relation to HRI, like the assessment of HRI-quality or task design in HRI teams. She is about to finish her PhD studies in this area. Within the unit “Human Factors, Economics” she supervises the working group “Physical Work Assistance”. She is one of the young delegates for the German human factors association (GfA-NEXT) and an active member of the Technical Committee Human Factors in Robotics of the International Ergonomics Association.

Dr. Sascha Wischniewski is head of the unit “Human Factors, Ergonomics” at the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA). His fields of expertise are anthropometry and digital human modelling, ergonomics of smart information and communication technologies and human factors in robotics. Sascha is a graduate engineer in Mechanical Engineering from and holds a doctoral degree in Industrial Engineering. His work focuses on human-technology interaction in the working world with special emphasis on innovative technologies for physical and cognitive work assistance. He is active in standardization and currently chair of the Technical Committee Human Factors in Robotics of the International Ergonomics Association.

Jose Gonzalez and Jonas Bornmann

Ottobock SE & Co. KGaAs

Design perspectives and opportunities of industrial exoskeletons

In this talk we will discuss the designers’ perspectives for development and implementation of exoskeletons that can support and augment people in an industrial setting. We will describe the challenges to convert an idea into a product, based on our experience with the Paexo shoulder and Paexo back products. We will describe and emphasize the importance of a user centered design and the implementation process, as well as the stakeholders that are involved in the process.

Jonas Bornmann received the M.Sc. degree in in Medical Technologies from the Berlin University of Technology (Technische Universität Berlin), Germany. He has joined Ottobock SE & Co. KGaA in 2014 and has been working as Innovator and Technical Lead at Global Research and Innovation on medical devices, industrial exoskeletons and wearable motion capturing. He is working on a number of international research projects (e.g. SPEXOR and AnDy) on development and evaluation of industrial exoskeletons.

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