The (R&MM) Robotics & Multibody Mechanics research group was founded in 1990. Its initial research was on
computer-aided analysis of rigid and flexible mechanical systems and on the simulation of legged robots. Nowadays the interests of the group can be divided in the following main categories:
The research group is particularly interested in the design of Variable Impedance Actuators (also known as Variable stiffness actuators, soft actuators, compliant actuators).
These types of actuators are especially suited for applications involving physical human-robot interactions.
In this context
3 new actuators were developed:
And other designs are under study. More info here.
Applications of the Variable Impedance Actuators are in
tasks where the robot needs to move in physical interaction
with an unknown and dynamic environment and the controlled
body-actuator system must achieve abilities like safety, energy efficiency, robustness and adaptability and all our robots have VIAs as actuation technology.
Within the Robotics & Multibody Mechanics Research Group, great effort is made in the research of energy efficient lower limb prostheses. Several prototypes have been built such as a Powered prosthesis using PPAM (IPPAM), The AMP-Foot 1.0 and 1.1, The AMP-Foot 2.0 and the HEKTA.
A robot arm, driven by PPAM's is developed in this project.
The arm is characterized by a high payload to weight ratio and an intrinsic compliant behavior. Special controller has been implemented to also obtain safety on control level.
Rehabilitation Robotics and assistive exoskeletons
The ALTACRO project is situated in the new and emerging field of medical rehabilitation robotics. ALTACRO stands for Automated Locomotion Training using an Actuated Compliant Robotic Orthosis. This project focuses on the design, construction and testing of a step rehabilitation robot for patients suffering from gait disorders. The key innovation in this project is the use of actuators with adaptable compliance. The first prototype is KNEXO knee exoskeleton, now a full lower limb exoskeleton is under development.
ICAROs stands for Investigation into the use of Compliant Actuators in the Realization of hip-knee-foot Orthoses. The main goal of this project is to succeed in developing an actuation system that delivers sufficient assistance to the wearer in an energy-efficient way. Energy-efficiency is attained by using compliant actuators in order to mimic elastic energy storage in human muscles.
The goal of this project is to create a intelligent huggy robot to study cognitive human-robot interaction and develop robot-assisted therapies, especially with children. The robot development focuses on multi-disciplinary and gathers different research
disciplines e.g. mechanical engineering, speach technology, artificial intelligence,
ortho-pedagogy, psychology,... Also a derived product Probogotchi has been developed to
have a tangible intuitive interface to play educational games like relaxation therapies for
In clinical interventions, skill transfer from therapist to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) benefits
from the inclusion of expressive artefacts such as puppets and animated characters. Well-designed robotic
agents have proven to be particularly effective and are becoming an increasingly important tool for mediating
between therapists and ASD children in robot-assisted therapy (RAT). However, therapeutic interventions require
significant human resources over extended periods. Consequently, to make a significant difference, therapeutic
robots need to have a greater degree of autonomy than current remote-controlled systems. Furthermore, they
have to act on more than just the child’s directly-observable movements because emotions and intentions are
even more important for selecting effective therapeutic responses.
The next generation of RAT, which we refer to as robot-enhanced therapy (RET), will be able to infer the ASD
children’s psychological disposition and assess their behaviour in order to select therapeutic actions. Since
children require therapy tailored to individual needs RET robots will provide this too. Driven by therapists,
DREAM will deliver next-generation RET, developing clinical interactive capacities for supervised autonomy
therapeutic robots; robots that can operate autonomously for limited periods under the supervision of a therapist.
The DREAM robot will also function as a diagnostic tool by collecting clinical data on the patient. It will operate
under strict ethical rules and the DREAM project will 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-specified behavioural classes, and then learns to map these child behaviours to appropriate
therapist-specified robot actions.