Italian partners of the project, coordinated by the University of Berlin, are the University of Pisa and the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa
How do we take a coin from the table? The easiest thing is to slide the money towards the end, taking advantage of the smooth, flat surface of the table itself. And to wear a pair of shoes? The easiest thing is to insert a hand or a finger between the foot and the back of the shoe. These are just some of the seemingly simple gestures in which our hands exploit the features of the environment and objects to make different kinds of manipulations. This is the key of the European project "Soma" (Soft Manipulation), which will officially start tomorrow, Friday 1 May, and which aims to develop an innovative artificial manipulation, that is simple and easy to program, but at the same time reliable and robust . Italian partners of the project, coordinated by the University of Berlin, are the University of Pisa and the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, who for years collaborated in the study and implementation of robotic hands, as the "Pisa-iit softhand" project winner of the ERC Advanced Grant "Softhands", which, with a simple structure and strong, and only one engine is able to perform movements and natural taken on all items of daily use.
The key concept is "soft manipulation" - says Antonio Bicchi, professor of robotics at the University of Pisa Piaggio Center and Senior Scientist at IIT - a manipulation that is able to adapt to different physical characteristics of the environment, in the same way than human. " This is made possible by the fact that the main features responsible for the ability of manipulation are not given by algorithms "inserted" in the hand, but are present directly in the physical structure of the hand itself, and emerge from the interaction between these characteristics and those of the objects in the 'real environment that must be handled. The environmental characteristics affect the design of the hand, as well as in designing the shape of a boat are kept in mind the physical characteristics of the water. This opens the way for a new generation of industrial robots and service capable of operating in real environment and with humans. Among the project partners Soma there are in fact two businesses, which will provide the first test beds for the technology developed. The first is Ocado, the world's largest chain of supermarkets. Substantial are in fact the potential for the application of Soma in agriculture and in the food industry, for example to manipulate objects, such as the fruits, irregular in shape and very easy to damage. The second test will be the safety of new handling in a context where the robot must co-exist and interact with humans, thanks to the collaboration with Disney. The project partners are the Technische Universität Berlin Soma (Coordinator), the University of Pisa, the Italian Institute of Technology IIT, German Aerospace Center, the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, Ocado Ocado Ltd. United Kingdom, Disney Research , Disney Switzerland.