About this Research Topic
Humans are endowed with extraordinary sensory-motor capabilities that enable a successful interaction with and exploration of the environment, as is the case of human manipulation. Understanding and modeling these capabilities represents an important topic not only for neuroscience but also for robotics in a mutual inspiration, both to inform the design and control of artificial systems and, at the same time, to increase knowledge on the biological side. Within this context, synergies -- i.e., goal directed actions that constrain multi DOFs of human body and can be defined at kinematic, muscular, neural level -- have gained an increasing attention as a general simplified approach to shape the development of simple and effective artificial devices.
The execution of such purposeful sensory-motor primitives on the biological side leverages on the interplay of the sensory-motor control at central and peripheral level, and the interaction of human body with the external world. This interaction is particularly important considering the new concept of robotic soft manipulation, i.e. soft, adaptable yet robust robotic hands that can deform with the external environment to multiply their grasping and manipulation capabilities. Under this regard, a preeminent role is deserved to touch, being the skin our primary organ to shape our knowledge of the external world and, hence, to modify it, in interaction with the efferent parts.
Thus, with this research proposal we would like to investigate the mutual inspiration between neuroscience and robotics, and how it is possible to translate neuroscientific findings on human manipulation into engineering guidelines for simplified systems able to take full advantage from the interaction and hence exploitation of environmental constraints for task accomplishment and knowledge acquisition.
This Research Topic is intrinsically interdisciplinary and aims to integrate expertise from different domains of research. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
- Neuroscientific investigation and technical tools for studying human behavior in interaction with the environment;
- Modeling of the sense of touch and proprioception, including tactile illusions as means to give insights into sensory information gathering and processing;
- Methods for transferring and mapping human behavior to robots;
- Design, sensing and control of simple and effective soft robotic hands and sensory systems for robots, taking inspiration from the human example.
Keywords: Neuroscientific modeling of human sensory-motor capabilities in manipulation, sensory-motor synergies, soft robotics, soft manipulation, under-actuation, tactile sensing, human-robot interfaces
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