Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia
IIT is a scientific research center established by Italian law in 2003, with the mission to promote excellence in both basic and applied research and to facilitate the economic development at national level. IIT scientific vision is multidisciplinary and based on the concept of translating evolution into technology, i.e., mimicking natural solutions to develop new technologies. Research is carried out in the Central Research laboratory in Genova (IIT headquarter), in 11 satellite centers across Italy, and in 2 outstations in the US. The IIT staff counts more than 1700 people, with an average age of 36 years. IIT participates in PROBOSCIS project with Soft BioRobotics Perception (SBRP) and Bioinspired Soft Robotics (BSR) research lines.
Soft BioRobotics Perception
The SBRP group is led by Dr. Lucia Beccai (Project Coordinator) with the scientific goal to investigate natural-like physical interactions and create new soft and embodied sensing processes, with a focus on touch. The end goal is to achieve totally new robotic solutions that can ‘see’ the world and intelligently interact with it. The research activity involves characterization and modeling of selected natural models, artificial material selection and characterization, and design of transduction mechanisms (also symbiotic to soft actuation) – including modeling, fabrication, and suitable signal processing (software and hardware). Sensing features at low and high level are either directly extracted or investigated by means of cutting-edge AI technologies.
Dr. Lucia Beccai, Ph.D., is Tenured Senior Researcher at IIT, leader of Soft BioRobotics Perception (SBRP) research line, and until 2009 was Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering at the Biorobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy. She collaborated and had scientific responsibility in many international projects at European and intercontinental level. Her research belongs to both biorobotics and soft robotics fields with the final aim of achieving soft sensing and perceptive soft robotic solutions for intelligent and safe interaction with the environment and humans. Specific topics include multimodal tactile systems inspired by natural mechanotransduction, soft robotic systems for active and passive touch, milli- and micro-scale fabrication technologies for 3D active structures, soft versatile grasping, and manipulation, and wearable soft sensing. She serves as Associate Editor for some journals including Scientific Reports and Frontiers in Robotics and AI, IEEE RA-L, is a reviewer for many journals (including Science Robotics, Nature Communications), the European Commission (including ERC programme), and some national research agencies (including US NSF). She authored more than 100 articles on refereed international journals, books, and international conference proceedings.
Bioinspired Soft Robotics
The Bioinspired Soft Robotics group is active in the Center for MicroBioRobotics@SSSA (CMBR) of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia since 2009. The research aims at designing and developing new robotic solutions and advanced components taking inspiration from nature. The principal biological models of interest are plants and soft animals, with the aim to design and develop new bioinspired technologies and robotic solutions and to increase the knowledge of the biological system models. Applications for such technologies inspired by plants include soil exploration for contamination or mineral deposits, rescue tasks after disasters, but also include medical and surgical applications, like new flexible endoscopes, able to steer and grow in delicate human organs. Soft animals provide exceptional cues for designing new robots able to exploit the intrinsic properties of their structures (materials, morphology, etc.) and performing tasks in unstructured environments.
Barbara Mazzolai is a biologist with a PhD in microsystems engineering. She is Director of the Center for Micro-BioRobotics (CMBR) of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), and Principal Investigator of the Bioinspired Soft Robotics Research Line. From 2012 to 2015 she was the Coordinator of the EU-funded FET-Open PLANTOID project (FP7-293431), and currently she is the Coordinator of the EU-funded FET-Proactive GrowBot Project (H2020- 824074). Her research activity is in the field of biologically-inspired robotics and soft robotics, combining biology and engineering for advancing technological innovation and scientific knowledge. In particular, she focuses her investigations on plants and invertebrate animals. On these topics, she has published more than 270 scientific works and the book “La Natura Geniale” (ed. Longanesi).