Robotics and automation: Italian excellence

Published on Friday, 7 February 2020

“We are convinced that our country, with its level of excellence and know-how, can be an example of sustainable growth at a global level, demonstrating, in line with the Assisi Manifesto, that it is possible to place a human dimension at the centre of the economic model”

– Francesco Starace, Enel CEO and General Manager

Ermete Realacci also highlighted how the ability to combine innovation, beauty and quality enables Italians to tackle the challenges of the present and the future, by finding human-sized solutions.

Take the Hannes hand: this is a perfect example of how engineering and design skills can be harnessed in order to help people. The robotic prosthetic hand enables patients to recover 90% of their functions, adapting to objects. It was designed by ddp Studio and developed by the Centro Protesi INAIL (the INAIL Prosthetics Centre) in Budrio (INAIL is the Italian national institute for occupational accident insurance) and the Italian Institute of Technology (ITT). An example of how design also considers the emotive relationship between the person and the object, explained Gabriele Diamanti, a designer from ddp Studio, who was responsible for creating the artificial limb.

“Robotics is closely linked to the challenges of the future, beginning with the need to deal with climate change, combining empathy and technology ”

– Ermete Realacci, President of the Symbola Foundation

Intelligent machines that are increasingly “natural”

One particular success story was described by Francesco Visentin, researcher at the centre for Micro-BioRobotics at IIT in Pontedera. He captivated the audience with the presentation of Plantoide, the first robot inspired by plants, which is capable of reacting to external stimuli and extending its “roots” into the ground to gather environmental data.

Another example of Italian excellence is the “octopus-robot,” which was created by Cecilia Laschi, a professor of industrial bioengineering at the Institute of BioRobotics at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, the branch dedicated to developing machines with soft and malleable surfaces.

Antonio Bicchi, President of I-RIM (Institute of Robotics and Digital Machines), emphasised the importance of looking to Artificial Intelligence, pointing out that there is more to AI than algorithms that elaborate data: they are also tools and solutions to support people.

Last but not least, there was an example that highlighted the link between robotics and the new generation: the students of the Scientific High School Avogadro in Vercelli, winners of Zero Robotics 2018-2019, the international competition set up by NASA. Having teamed up with two schools in the US, the youngsters programmed the movement simulated by mini-satellites on board the International Space Station.

The Italian robotics sector has achieved great results in just a few years. The new frontier for the sector, according to Cecilia Laschi, is to draw inspiration from living beings and the environment: the robot of the future will be increasingly “natural” and at the service of people’s health and well-being.

Download the report “100 Italian Robotics & Automation Stories

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