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Twente robot technology - heading for the top

22 May 2009, 12:00

Robot technology in Twente is growing rapidly. Prof. Stefano Stramigioli of the University of Twente has ambitious plans for the new robotics centre, which he hopes will gain a leading international reputation.

Robot technology in Twente is growing rapidly. Prof. Stefano Stramigioli of the University of Twente has ambitious plans for the new robotics centre, which he hopes will gain a leading international reputation.

Developments at the UT align well with this aim. They include one of the first robots in the Netherlands to have human features, one of the first systems for checking gas pipes safely, and one of the first robots for assisting surgeons.

Robotics at Twente is taking an enormous step forward with the opening of the Robotics Centre Twente, which will continue current projects and build robots for applications in society. Several companies including Demcon, IMS, Maxon Motors will work with the University of Twente, and many different academic chairs will play an important role. Stefano Stramigioli is one of the key initiators, and his ambition is to secure an international top position for the centre.

Twente Humanoid

One of the projects at the University of Twente is the development of a robotic head that will form part of a Twente Humanoid. The head is the first step towards a humanoid robot. A humanoid robot is being developed, because interaction between people, robots and machines will become increasingly important in the future.

The unique robot head has human-like features, largely visible in its freedom of movement and expressions. This was achieved using seven degrees of freedom, enabling the head not only to track objects and people, but to move in a human-like way to reflect its expressions.

The innovative mechanism allows for this range of movement. The expressions of the head are implemented using a new technology, namely light. In terms of speed, the mechanics used in the robotic head are among the best in the world. 

Safety and assistance

There are many projects under way at the UT that will be developed into useful applications at the robotics centre. For example, a system has been developed to inspect gas pipes from the inside to check for damage. This is usually a dangerous task, but the use of robots means that dangerous situations can be detected much earlier and more precisely.

Another area in which a great deal of work is being done is robotic surgery, in which surgeons are aided by robots. This relates to procedures that have to be carried out with great precision, causing minimum discomfort to the patient – for example, removing a tumour through a small incision.

The Da Vinci robot is already very successful worldwide and is currently used for standard endoscopic procedures. Researchers at Twente are working on single-access surgery using flexible instruments rather than fixed instruments such as those of the Da Vinci robot. University of Twente

 

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