Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Projects Robotics & Multibody Mechanics Research Group

The project portfolio of the Robotics & Multibody Mechanics Research Group consists of different International projects (EU funded projects), national projects (FWO, IWT) and projects funded by VUB. Our 6 biggest projects are:

DREAM (FP7-project)

DREAM website

DREAM is a 4.5 years EC-funded project that will deliver the next generation robot-enhanced therapy (RET), developing clinical interactive capacities for social robots that can operate autonomously for limited periods under the supervision of s psychotherapist. DREAM will also provide policy guidelines to govern ethically-compliant deployment of supervised autonomy RET. The core of the DREAM RET robot is its cognitive model which interprets sensory data (body movement and emotion appearance cues), uses these percepts to assess the child’s behaviour by learning to map them to therapist-specific behavioural classes, and then learns to map these child behaviours to appropiate therapist-specific robot actions.


ALTACRO (GOA-project)

ALTACRO website

ALTACRO is a 5-year project (2008-2012) funded by the university research council of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. ALTACRO stands for Automated Locomotion Training using an Actuated Compliant Robotic Orthosis.

This multidisciplinary research project aims at the development and clinical testing of a step rehabilitation robot powered by compliant actuators. The ALTACRO project is a contribution to the synergy between robotics and rehabilitation. Our primary goals are to improve the quality of step rehabilitation therapy both for patients and therapists and increasing the availability of automated step rehabilitation training.


VIACTORS (FP7-project)

VIACTORS website

VIACTORS addresses the development and use of safe, energy-efficient and highly dynamic variable impedance actuation (VIA) systems, which will permit the embodiment of natural characteristics found in biological systems, into the structures of a new generation of mechatronic systems. The main innovation is the capability of VIA systems of controlling not just either the force or position, but rather the dynamical relationship between them, i.e. the impedance. The main sought advantage is that of incorporating the intended behaviours of the machine into its own physics to the maximum extent possible. The strategy to reach this goal is to conjugate advanced studies of the human neuromuscular system with novel material and systems engineering to push the envelope of variable stiffness actuation technology, a technology that members of this consortium have pioneered worldwide. New VIA systems developed here will have three major impacts: Firstly, they will save computational and communication bandwidth for controlling the robot motion, a major concern for tasks involving physical dynamics, where reaction times of the order of a millisecond may make the difference between safe and deadly, efficient and inefficient, adaptive and coercive. Secondly, they will make it possible to adapt the behaviour to the task with finer time granularity just like the natural example teaches us. Thirdly, they will constitute a physical substrate for the interface with the higher levels of (cognitive) intelligence for both artificial robotic systems and humans. This advance in technology will pave the way towards new application fields, such as industrial co-workers, household robots, advanced prostheses and rehabilitation devices, and autonomous robots for exploration of remote planets. Therefore, this project will deeply impact applications where successful task completion requires people and robots to collaborate directly in a shared workspace or robots to move autonomously and safely.



Overview video technology developed in Viactors and also Winner IROS2012 jubilee video award

CORBYS (FP7-project)

CORBYS website

CORBYS is an Integrated Project funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Program, Area: Cognitive Systems and Robotics. The project was launched on 1st of February 2011 and will run for a total of 48 months. CORBYS focus is on robotic systems that have symbiotic relationship with humans. Such robotic systems have to cope with highly dynamic environments as humans are demanding, curious and often act unpredictably. CORBYS will design and implement a cognitive robot control architecture that allows the integration of high-level cognitive control modules, a semantically-driven self-awareness module and a cognitive framework for anticipation of, and synergy with, human behaviour based on biologically-inspired information-theoretic principles. These modules, supported with an advanced multi-sensor system to facilitate dynamic environment perception, will endow the robotic systems with high-level cognitive capabilities such as situation-awareness, and attention control. This will enable the adaptation of robot behaviour, to the users variable requirements, to be directed by cognitively adapted control parameters. CORBYS will provide a flexible and extensible architecture to benefit a wide range of applications; ranging from robotised vehicles and autonomous systems such as robots performing object manipulation tasks in an unstructured environment to systems where robots work in synergy with humans. The latter class of systems will be a special focus of CORBYS innovation as there exist important classes of critical applications where support for humans and robots sharing their cognitive capabilities is a particularly crucial requirement to be met. CORBYS control architecture will be validated within two challenging demonstrators: a novel mobile robot-assisted gait rehabilitation system CORBYS an existing autonomous robotic system. The CORBYS demonstrator to be developed during the project, will be a self-aware system capable of learning and reasoning that enables it to optimally match the requirements of the user at different stages of rehabilitation in a wide range of gait disorders.

CYBERLEGS (FP7-project)

CYBERLEGS website

The aim of the CYBERLEGs project is to develop an artificial cognitive system for trans-femoral amputeesÕ lower-limb functional replacement and assistance. CYBERLEGs wants to research ways of cognitive control, motivated and validated trough the ortho-prosthesis scenario, of a multi-degree-of-freedom system with both lower-limb replacing and assistive capacities. The project will develop know-how on how human can interface a semi-autonomous robotic device which supports the amputee in executing locomotion-related tasks (e.g. walking, stairs climbing), including transients (e.g. start, stop, sit-to-stand, etc. É), in a real life unstructured environment. Research activities within CYBERLEGs aim at pursuing metabolic, cognitive and energy efficiency. CYBERLEGs will be built with the aim of decreasing the cardiovascular and muscular load on the amputee, to allow the user to use the robotic aid on a whole-day basis (metabolic efficiency).

H2R (FP7-project)

The development of a robotic humanoid is one of the recurrent human dreams of all ages. Environments in which humans operate or live are specially made for and structured to their locomotion and manipulation capabilities. In healthy humans, walking emerges naturally from a hierarchical organization and combination of motor control mechanisms. Artificial bipeds have not reached performance comparable to human behaviour. Major drawbacks of these bipeds and control concepts are related to their stability and energy consumption. The goal of H2R project is to demonstrate human-like gait and posture in a controlled compliant biped robot as a result of a hierarchical organization and combination of the most relevant motor control mechanisms found in humans. This will be done integrating the human-like mechanical principles and control strategies currently applied in the three actual prototypes ESBiRRo, Veronica and Posturob, into a behavior-based hierarchical architecture proposed by the iB2C approach. This process will result in a novel reflex-based controlled passive walker, built around the ESBiRRo platform. H2R biped, will allow, to some extent, capturing human functional morphology and passive dynamics features. The behaviour-based control structure will allow for hierarchical strategies and combination of feed-forward and feedback control, thus supporting spinal motor patterns for bilateral synchronization of gait phases and stabilization by means of spinal reflexes. The system will include human-like vestibular and visual sensory systems, to allow for supraspinal postural reflexes. The behaviour-based control architecture will be combined with novel learning schemes and prediction strategies in which biomechanical, neuromotor and cognitive key features of human walking are transferred to the machine.

MIRAD (SBO-IWT)

There is a growing need for mechatronic devices that dynamically interact with humans, such as orthoses, prostheses, rehabilitation or training equipment, and teleoperation and assistive devices for industry. User satisfaction of existing devices is currently limited, because many knowledge domains are involved: mechatronics, biomechanical knowledge on human motion models, rehabilitation knowledge, and psychological aspects. Therefore the MIRAD project brings together a unique consortium of experts from di_erent _elds to develop a universal in- tegrated methodology to bring intelligent robotic assistive devices to the users. To test our methodology, we additionally focus on a challenging application in the health care sector: a bilateral intelligent active lower-limb exoskeleton to assist persons su_ering from functional weakness. The purpose of the project is not to develop a product that can be used in clinical practice by the end of the project. Follow-up R&D projects will be needed for that purpose. Apart from health care, the project targets valorization of the developed methodologies and technologies in various industrial sectors and market segments, for example sports, space, nu- clear, entertainment and defense.

BioMot (FP7-project)

BioMot website

Wearable robots (WR) are person-oriented devices, usually in the form of exoskeletons. These devices are worn by human operators to enhance or support a daily function, such as walking. WRs find applications in the enhancement of intact operators or in clinical environments, e.g. rehabilitation of gait function in neurologically injured patients. Most advanced WRs for human locomotion still fail to provide the real-time adaptability and flexibility presented by humans when confronted with natural perturbations, due to voluntary control or environmental constraints. Current WRs are extra body structures inducing fixed motion patterns on its user.
The main objective of the project is to improve existing wearable robotic exoskeletons exploiting dynamic sensory-motor interactions and developing cognitive capabilities that can lead to symbiotic gait behavior in the interaction of a human with a wearable robot.
BioMot will use and adapt available tools to reveal how neural circuits generate behavior, and to yield new strategies for co-adaptation during use of wearable robots for walking:

  • The systems will fuse the information from both interaction with the environment and human gait dynamics, and exploit this information for safe and natural locomotion adjusted to the user's intentions and capabilities.
  • The proposed bioinspired cognition for WRs will consider the interplay between biomechanical and sensory-motor levels with a developmentally guided coordination.
  • It will establish advanced computational neuromusculoskeletal models based on dynamic sensory-motor interactions that are suitable as controllers for symbiotic interaction.
  • BioMot will produce guidelines and benchmarking for WRs to become available for human locomotion in realistic scenarios.
BioMot proposes a cognitive architecture for WRs exploiting neuronal control and learning mechanisms which main goal is to enable positive co-adaptation and seamless interaction with humans.

SPEAR (ERC starting grant)

In the 50’s, a vacuum tube was the dominant part of electronic equipment. They were expensive, inefficient and required high maintenance. Thanks to the development of the transistor and later the integrated circuit, a new vision of miniaturized computational possibilities occurred, whose performance/cost ratio has continued to go up as forecasted by Moore’s law. The complexity of networks of transistors is at a very low cost with over a billion of transistors in a single device. The impact on society and every human being of this technology is enormous.

Actuators today, are mostly like the vacuum tubes. Actuators are still of low performance, heavy, low torque, energy inefficient, etc. Actuators are key components for moving and controlling a mechanism or system. One can state that the functional performances and neuro-mechanical control system capabilities of biological muscles are far from reached by a mechanical actuator. There are several applications where the unavailability of suitable actuators due to low torque/weight ratio and low energy efficiency hinders the development of well-performing machines. The number of actuators in a human or animal, also exceed machines, making humans very versatile. SPEAR proposes a completely novel and modular actuation approach, which will drastically change how systems are actuated and go in the direction of a transistor for actuation. Demonstrators will show the feasibility of the novel technology during the project (5 years). Within 10 years, we expect that these actuators and their specific control algorithms will be validated in various state of the art applications.

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