Italy-Japan, robotics at the service of medicine with iCub humanoids

The Covid-19 pandemic has given a strong impetus to the development of robots that could help or replace healthcare personnel in hospital wards, protection from contagion that guarantees quality care for patients. Japan is at the forefront of the sector (we talked about it here), but Italy is also reaching high standards, thanks to automatons with increasingly human features and advanced degrees of social interaction.

In Tuscany, the Enrico Piaggio Research Center of the University of Pisa has created Abel, an android that looks like a little boy 12 years old and can also perceive what surrounds him. In Genoa the Italian Institute of Technology has developed iCub that has the shape and size of a child about 4 years old: it is the only robot in the world to have its body covered with an artificial skin – a tactile sensor – which allows it to understand if and how it is touched by humans and to respond appropriately.

The little iCub – from the English cube, meaning puppy – is the most popular humanoid robot in the world. I am currently over 40 laboratories in the world who use iCub for their studies on Artificial Intelligence, in Europe, USA, Japan and South Korea. A few months ago, for the first time in the world, the humanoid robot iCub entered a clinical rehabilitation center as part of a experimental therapy in the treatment of autism.

“Abel has a biomimetica spinta, with iCube we have focused more on mechanics. And the reality is that as Italians we position ourselves very, very well in the global robotics landscape “, he stresses Giorgio Metta, scientific director of the Italian Institute of Technology (Iit), interviewed byAdnkronos. “Robotics in Italy is very strong from the point of view of research, robotics is a very pervasive technology and our country does very well. If we look through the international databases of publications in robotics, Italy has a performance that places it between the first and second place in the world, depending on the indicators we want to consider “, emphasizes Metta.

The scientist therefore remembers – in addition to Abel of the Enrico Piaggio Research Center of the University of Pisa and iCub at the IIT of Genoa – that there also exists “the group of robotics of Naples of the Federico II University, a very strong group on industrial robotics and an inter-university laboratory together with various universities in the South and coordinated by Professor Bruno Siciliano “.

The utility of robots beyond the healthcare sector

The Pepper robot replaces the audience in a Japanese stadium during a sporting event

The application uses of artificial intelligence are in fact numerous, and not only concern the medical sector. In Japan, for example, the government recently announced plans to acquire and develop new ones unmanned aircraft and submarines, to be allocated to military surveillance activities, a sector in which it is difficult to recruit personnel due to the actual lack of young people who can be enlisted.

A’important University of Tokyo, Business Breakthrough, decided, in order to limit travel and therefore contagions, to replace the students, during the graduation certificate delivery ceremony, with New-me, from Ana Holdings, dressed in the classic tunic and hat of the graduates and, instead of the head, the image on the screen of the real students, connected via webcam from home, able to control the robots remotely, through their PC.

Then in August, the autonomous driving of DeliRo, a robot from ZMP Inc., which will deliver food ordered by customers via tablet during the trial period from the 12th to the 16th of the month, near the Takanawa station.


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