|Nicolas Mokhoff||July 28th 2011|
STMicroelectronics and Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna of Pisa announced the creation of a joint laboratory for research and innovation in bio-robotics, smart systems and microelectronics. The work at the new laboratory in Catania, Italy is to lead to a better understanding of the physical design of bodies and the organization of their sensory and nervous systems.
Past collaboration between ST and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna resulted in joint projects including DustBot, a scientific platform integrating self-driven, self-navigating ‘service robots’ for selective waste collection and street cleaning in city centers. Going forward, experts will be collaborating to develop smart toys equipped with motion and pressure sensors for early diagnosis of neuro-developmental delays and autistic pathologies in small children.
While the child plays with the smart toy, the system will constantly monitor the child’s movement and posture, as well as how he/she grasps or holds the toy. The researchers anticipate that doctors will be able to diagnose neurological abnormalities in children, even before the child is able to speak. The researchers, in collaboration with medical institutions and a toy manufacturer, expect to prototype toys with sensors for infants, including clear operating guides for doctors, within the next two years.
“The joint laboratory will help advance our efforts in creating the next generation of intelligent systems integrating microelectronics, mechanics and computing technologies,” said professor Paolo Dario, Director of the BioRobotics Institute of the school, in a statement. “We are confident that the new lab will serve as a model of excellence in industrial-academic cooperation, translating rich R&D potential into globally competitive, marketable results,” said Carmelo Papa, Senior Executive Vice President, General Manager of ST’s Industrial & Multisegment Sector, and Chairman of the European Platform on Smart Systems (EPoSS).
The experts from ST and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna plan to work on humanoid robots-- soft-bodied robots made of shape-memory materials capable of acting and interacting physically, emotionally, socially and safely with humans. Shape memory alloys, or smart metals ‘remember’ their original shape and, after deformation, can return to their pre-deformed shape when heated. This quality can be useful in a wide range of applications, including medical equipment and aviation.