The future of Robotics for rehabilitation and personal assistance
Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are considered the enabling technologies for the upcoming fourth industrial revolution.
Despite they are not new, they are indeed receiving increased attention because of their recent progresses that make it possible to develop new process automation in industrial robotics and new robots for rehabilitation, personal assistance and entertainment.
There are two aspects that are interesting in the innovation wave that is going across robotics: collaborative (and wearable) robots and social robots for entertainment and cognitive engagement with humans.
The common root and the novel part are related to the proximity between the robot and the operator and to the opportunity of using machine learning to automate some decisions of the robot in achieving its mission. That does not mean to replace the therapist or the doctor in delivering or supervising the therapies but to assist them to overcome limitations and improve the quality of the care for the benefit of the patient.
In developing robots for performing activities in close contact to human subjects it is important to give priority to safety and security of humans, and thus the design goals are different compared to traditional service or industrial robots that are intended for professional use in tasks mainly teleoperated by human experts, that are purposely trained, and located remotely with respect to the workspace of the robot.
In addition to safety, the second fundamental characteristics is the cognitive relationship that must be created between the robot and the human subject, i.e. the robot can work well and satisfactorily for the human subjects if it is incorporated in their sensory-motor scheme and is sentient in respecting the intention of the user while performing the task. In order to provide the desired requirements of safety and natural controllability of the robot it is crucial to rely on appropriate and adequate actuation, sensing and control capabilities of the robot.
The lecture will introduce and present the main scientific challenges related to the development of robots for rehabilitation and personal assistance and the interdisciplinary methodologies needed to approach the problems.