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Projects / Programmes source: ARRS

Automation, Robotics and Biocybernetics

Periods
Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
2.10.00  Engineering sciences and technologies  Manufacturing technologies and systems   
2.06.00  Engineering sciences and technologies  Systems and cybernetics   
Keywords
Robotics, automation, biocybernetics, robot learning, intelligent robot systems, humanoid robots, reconfigurable robotics, human-robot cooperation, robot compliance, robotic asistive devices, environmental physiology, ergomnomics, smart factories
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Points
1,848.77
A''
67.79
A'
602.97
A1/2
1,176.46
CI10
2,634
CImax
106
h10
23
A1
5.23
A3
5.63
Data for the last 5 years (citations for the last 10 years) on September 24, 2022; A3 for period 2016-2020
Data for ARRS tenders ( 04.04.2019 – Programme tender , archive )
Database Linked records Citations Pure citations Average pure citations
WoS  245  4,059  3,238  13.22 
Scopus  258  4,485  3,671  14.23 
Researchers (1)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publications
1.  14676  PhD Igor Mekjavić  Cardiovascular system  Principal Researcher  2022  1,240 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publications
1.  0106  Jožef Stefan Institute  Ljubljana  5051606000  83,492 
Abstract
In the programme group Automation, Robotics and Biocybernetics we develop new technologies to increase the productivity and flexibility of production processes. The result of our work are new enabling technologies for smart factories. With these new technologies we support the digital transformation of production systems, which is at the core of the drive towards Industry 4.0. Moreover, we give special consideration to human factors in the design of our systems. This will be vital to create the next generation of production systems that follow the Industry 5.0 paradigm, reaching beyond the mere production of goods and services for profit by placing the human worker in the centre of the production process. Emphasis on societal and environmental dimensions is the hallmark feature that distinguishes Industry 5.0 from Industry 4.0. Besides the increasing complexity of modern production processes, workers are now becoming increasingly exposed to demanding environments, whether external (e.g., summer heat waves in industrial environments) or internal (e.g., ageing, illness). The need for assistance in conducting common tasks will increase with the severity of these conditions. To enable human-centric production, it is essential to understand how humans can be assisted in their tasks by automation and robotic systems (collaborative robots, exoskeletons, humanoid robots, etc.), how they react and work in such environments (ergonomics of demanding environments), and how they can be protected from such environments (personal protective equipment). Our research programme group is unique, as it is among the few worldwide, and the only one in Slovenia, that is equipped to provide a platform for collaborative research to address these issues. To develop new production systems that contribute to the achievement of both Industry 4.0 and 5.0 objectives, we have defined the following Key Research Areas: o Increasing robot autonomy through learning and artificial intelligence o Human-robot interaction and collaborative workplaces o Ergonomics and physiological constraints of demanding industrial environments o Human-centred robotics from theory to modern workplace o Mobile robotics for smart manufacturing o Integration to enhance the flexibility of robotic workcells and smart automation A coherent integration of research results from the above areas utilizing modern scientific methods and advanced technological approaches will keep our group at the apex of the world research community in the field of factory automation, autonomous robotic systems, environmental ergonomics, and human-centred robotics with a significant impact on the real-world production, manufacturing, and the underlying economy.
Significance for science
Due to the increasing complexity of modern production processes and the critical role humans play in these processes, optimisation of production in such environments requires a broad range of complementary expertise and a systematic implementation strategy. The results need to be integrated into applicable and meaningful solutions for the next generation of production systems, without jeopardising the health and well-being of the worker. In our research we focus on the following Key Research Areas that are important for the development of production systems that follow Industry 4.0 and also Industry 5.0 paradigm: o Increasing robot autonomy through learning and artificial intelligence o Human-robot interaction and collaborative workplaces o Ergonomics and physiological constraints of demanding industrial environments o Human-centred robotics from theory to modern workplace o Mobile robotics for smart manufacturing o Integration to enhance the flexibility of robotic workcells and smart automation A coherent integration of research results from the above areas utilizing modern scientific methods and advanced technological approaches will keep our group at the apex of the world research community in the field of factory automation, autonomous robotic systems, environmental ergonomics, and human-centred robotics with a significant impact on the real-world production, manufacturing, and the underlying economy. The potential impact for science of the identified Key Research Areas can be explained through specific impacts of each key research area and through an overall impact provided by the integration of the results, culminating in the transfer of the outcomes to industrial environments. This was the strategy of our previous funding period, and will continue to be the guiding principle of our research. Autonomous robots are increasingly influencing production processes and our daily activities. Essential properties of such robots are the perception of the environment and their (re)action to real world scenarios. This is only possible with the advancement in robot learning and AI. This development has the potential to radically change production and interaction processes, whereby robots will be able to perform independently and without supervision. This will lead to new robot interfaces, increased production, faster setup and reconfiguration times, reduced worker physical and cognitive stress and new application of robots in non-industrial environments. Our research in human-robot interaction and collaborative workplaces will open new possibilities for robotics applications in semi-structured industrial environments by providing an easily accessible collaborative robot system that allows users to use robots as tools in their field of expertise. Equipping collaborative robots with learning and adaptive capabilities are indispensable features for their use in industrial environments, laboratory automation, healthcare, and home. Our innovative experimental model to investigate the effects of heat waves on labour productivity will provide a platform for further research regarding the impact on populations of workers of different ages and of both genders. The data emanating from this work will be essential for establishing recommendations to stakeholders regarding heat strain mitigation strategies. The concept of combining artificial gravity with exercise may provide a new rehabilitation modality for mitigation of age-related sarcopenia, and sarcopenia resulting from hypoxic inactivity (i.e., Covid-19 patients). Our research in the field of human-centred robotics has the potential to radically improve the applicability and adoption of wearable robotic devices by providing scientific understanding of how the central nervous system perceives mechanical structures added to the human body (i.e., exoskeletons). Accounting for this fundamental will aid in the development of the novel assistive robotic interfaces. Mobility and associated technologies will change our perception of what a robot is, and how it can help us, and the world we live in. Instead of thinking of robots as large, fixed, rigid, and resistant machines, future robots can be viewed as artificial organisms with the capabilities of natural organisms, where mobility is an essential property. The direct impact of our research in this area will be on enabling new robotic applications in industrial environments that require mobility beyond the simple logistic tasks that exist in current industrial environments as well as on the emergence of assistive mobile robots in other environments, e.g. health, sport and leisure with the aim of changing our society in a positive way. The scientific complementarity of our key research areas will allow our group to integrate the specific scientific endeavours into innovative production cells, demonstrating the advantages of autonomous, AI-driven cognitive robots, concepts of human-robot collaboration, applicability of assistive devices, and efficiency of mobile manipulation in practical industrial applications.
Significance for Slovenia
Our programme group has been working on the transfer of advanced automation, robotics, and protective equipment technologies to industrial production processes since its inception. In recent years we have collaborated to create new technologies and products with numerous Slovenian companies (Kolektor, Hidria Podkrižnik, Gorenje, Elvez, Unior, Lama, Prevent-Deloza, Tekstina, Intersocks, etc.) as well as with the international companies (Yaskawa, Ottobock, Kimberly-Clark, W. L. Gore & Associates, Xsense, Blue Ocean Robotics, qbrobotics, Electrocycling, etc.). The proposed programme supports the maintainance of existing industrial collaborations and forgeing new ones. These activities will be supported by our membership in EIT Manufacturing (https://eitmanufacturing.eu), whose mission is to bring the leading European manufacturing actors together (both research organizations & manufatcuring companies). Our group also maintains a digital innovation hub in the area of robotics funded by H2020 project TRINITY and collaborates with Strategic Innovation-Research Partnership (SRIP) Factories of the future, which both support the quick transfer of our technologies to industrial ecosystem in Slovenia and Europewide. In the next period we aim to develop new technologies in the area of robot learning, collaborative robotics, reconfigurable robotics, and wearable devices, which will be of interest for national and international manufacturing companies. For example, the preparation of a new collaborative project with the involvement of two agile start-ups to prepare our passive reconfigurable devices for industrial applications is under way. By working with start-up and also spin-off companies from our group, we will bring our technologies to the market faster. Another activity that will help us disseminate our current and future results to industrial applications is the H2020 project ReconCycle (2020-2024), where our solutions in the area of robot learning and reconfigurable robotics are transferred to the domain of recycling in collaboration with the German company that deal with the recycling of electornic products. With our research results we will support the Smart Specialization Strategy of Slovenia S4 in the area of smart factories. For example, in collaboration with two Slovenian companies we have currently been working to develop an intelligent system for integrated quality control in industrial production with reconfigurable robot workell. We anticipate the development of the marketable smart cooling concepts embedded in personal protective equipment to maintain the health, well-being and labour productivity of workers during summer heat waves. The concepts will be tested and evaluated by the new generation of manikins. Our focus on the remote physiological monitoring of workers will include strategies for predicting deep body temperature from infrared measurements of the skin temperature. This will assist in maintaining a healthy workplace (free of potential viral infections) and could also be implemented in monitoring of patients (i.e., Covid-19) during their self-isolation at home. Among various synergistic effects of our scientific and economical impacts, the most notable in the area of technology and healthcare is the establishment of a new facility in Planica for the assessment of artificial gravity with and without resistive vibration exercise as a new modality for mitigation of age-related sarcopnenia, and as a new rehabilitation strategy for patients following prolonged hypoxic bed rest (i.e., Covid-19). These studies will demonstrate the utility of incorporating short-arm human centrifuges in future space vehicles and habitats, whereby artificial gravity would be used as a method of mitigating the microgravity-induced changes in the structure and function of the organ systems. The facility we established in Planica is supported by the European Space Agency (ESA). It is important for the promotion of Slovenia, as visiting European researchers will be able to conduct ESA-supported research at this facilty.
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