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Università di Pisa (UNIPI)

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The Università di Pisa (UNIPI), founded 1343, is among the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe, with alumni such as Galilei, Volterra and Fermi. The Research Centre “Enrico Piaggio”, founded in 1962 and recently promoted to the status of Centro di Ateneo, organises interdisciplinary research among engineering, medicine, and biological scientists towards applications in Bioengineering and Robotics. Centro E. Piaggio has a longstanding experience in managing contracts with international, EC, and industrial partners, and currently hires four professional project managers. The Robotics Group of the Interdepartmental Research Centre “Enrico Piaggio” focuses on robotics and embedded automation. The group is among the originators of the modern approach to physical human-robot interaction, where it has been advocating intrinsic safety via the co-design of mechanics and control, oriented towards performance maximization within rigid safety constraints.  Particular attention has been focused on the study of hands and haptics since at least 20 years.  Recent work has proposed a synergy-based approach to hand design and control for grasp and manipulation that is producing interesting results from both a theoretic and a design point of view.

Key personnel: Antonio Bicchi, Marco Gabiccini, Lucia Pallottino, Emilio Frazzoli

Role of the Partner

Within this project UNIPI will significantly contribute on the whole-body loco-manipulation analysis, motion planning and control developments leading the activities in WP4 and WP6 particularly on the development of reactive manipulation and motion control. UNIPI will also contribute soft robotics mechanical and control co-design principles in WP2 where UNIPI will focus on the design of robust and versatile extremities (hands/feet) that can be used for powerful manipulation.  UNIPI will also contribute to system integration, experimentation and validation in WP7.

Key Personnel

Antonio Bicchi is Professor of Robotics at the University of Pisa. He graduated from the University of Bologna in 1988 and was a postdoc scholar at M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence lab in 1988–1990.  He teaches  Control Systems and Robotics in the Department of Information Engineering  (DIE) of the University of Pisa,  leads the Robotics  group at the  Research Center "E. Piaggio'' of the University of Pisa since 1990, and served as Director from 2003 to 2012. He collaborates as a Senior Scientist with the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa. His main research interests are in Robotics, Haptics, and Control Systems. He has published more than 300 papers on international journals, books, and refereed conferences (h=38 on Google Scholar). He currently serves as the President of the Italian Association or Researchers in Automatic Control. He has served as Editor in Chief of the Conference Editorial Board for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS), as Vice President and as Distinguished Lecturer of IEEE RAS.  He is Editor-in-Chief for the series "Springer Briefs on Control, Automation and Robotics", and is (or has been) in the editorial board of several scientific journals, including the top-ranked Int.l J. Robotics Research, the IEEE Trans. on Robotics and Automation, IEEE Trans. Automation Science and Engineering, and IEEE RAS Magazine. He has organized and co-chaired the first WorldHaptics Conference (2005), and Hybrid Systems: Computation and Control (2007). He is the recipient of several awards and honors. In 2012, he was awarded with an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council for his research on human and robot hands.

Marco Gabiccini received the Laurea degree (cum laude) and the Ph.D. both from the University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy, in 2000 and 2006, respectively. During his Ph.D. he was a visiting scholar at the GearLab, The Ohio State University, Columbus, from 2003 to 2004. Since 2001, he has been doing research at the Department of Mechanical, Nuclear and Production Engineering, University of Pisa. In 2006, he also joined the Research Center Centro “E. Piaggio”. He is currently a faculty member of the Department of Mechanical, Nuclear and Production Engineering (DIMNP), and a Principal Investigator in the EU project PACMAN for Centro Piaggio. He teaches Robotics, Applied Mechanics and Biomechanics at the University of Pisa, School of Engineering. His main research interests are in the field of theory of gearing, geometrical methods in robotics and in the areas of dynamics, kinematics and control of complex mechanical systems.

Lucia Pallottino is Assistant Professor in Robotics and Automation at the University of Pisa in the Department of Information Engineering  (DIE). She received the Laurea degree in Mathematics and the Ph.D. degree in Robotics and Industrial Automation from the University of Pisa, Italy in 1997 and 2002 respectively. She is currently developing her research at the Research Center “E. Piaggio”. Her main research interests within Robotics are in motion planning and control for nonholonomic vehicles, optimal control of constrained systems, distributed control of multi-robot vehicles and quantised control. She has published about 50 refereed papers (h=12 on Google Scholar). 

An important addition to the Pisa Touch Lab will be the collaboration of Prof. Emilio Frazzoli from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,  a leading expert in motion planning and control, and one of the originators of many of the ideas (such as symbolic control and the RRT* algorithm)  that form an important part of this proposal (for a CV, see description of the MIT partner). Prof. Frazzoli has already spent extended visiting periods in Pisa, doing joint research work and substantially contributing to the preparation of this proposal. He will be appointed Adjunct Professor by our Department and will regularly consult for Centro “E. Piaggio” in the four years of the project, spending at least 1 PM per year in Pisa dedicated to this project. In addition, Prof. Frazzoli plans to spend 3 PM in Pisa during his forthcoming sabbatical, in the academic year 2013-2014. Emilio Frazzoli’s pioneering expertise on dynamic motion planning and control will play a key role in several aspects of specific studies of the WALK-MAN project, in particular for the studies associated with WP6, which he will co-lead.

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