Tuesday, 8 March 2011

New Robot to Help People to Walk Again

Cognitive skills for a new robot which will help people with damaged limbs to walk again are being developed by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire.

Dr Daniel Polani and a team at the University’s School of Computer Science have just received a European grant of €780,800 for the four-year research project Cognitive Control Framework for Robotic Systems (CORBYS) to build the cognitive features of these robots.

“There are already some robots which help people to walk, but the issue is that they need constant attention and monitoring by therapists and they cannot effectively monitor the human,” said Dr Polani. “In CORBYS, the aim is to have robots that understand what humans need so that they can operate autonomously.”

Dr Polani and his team will contribute in particular to the high-level cognitive control of these robots and their synergy with human behaviour. This is based on biologically-inspired principles and methodologies that have been developed at the School of Computer Science over the last years.

“We believe that all organisms optimise information and organise it efficiently in their niche and that this shapes their behaviour - in a way, it tells them to some extent what to do. We believe it will help our system to take decisions similar to organisms and to better 'read' the intentions of the human it supports,” said Dr Polani. “Furthermore, we will use these techniques to balance the lead-taking between robot and human.”

Over the four-year period, the project will produce two demonstrators, among them a novel mobile robot-assisted gait rehabilitation system which will be a self-aware system capable of learning to enable it to optimally match the requirements of the user at different stages of rehabilitation.

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