[robotics-worldwide] PhD Openings in Haptic Systems

Ioannis Sarakoglou Ioannis.Sarakoglou at iit.it
Wed Aug 29 09:35:21 PDT 2012


PhD Openings in Haptic Systems

Department of Advanced Robotics, Italian Institute of Technology(IIT)



The Department of Advanced Robotics (http://www.iit.it/en/advanced-robotics.html) at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), an English language research Institute placed in Genova,  has a number of PhD openings within the research area of Haptic and Interaction Technologies.  The positions are fully funded for 3 years and start in January 2013. International applications are encouraged and will receive logistic support with visa issues, relocation, etc. All the successful candidates will work closely with a team of researchers working on Haptic and Interaction Technologies.





List of PhD themes:

Theme 3.9: New design and implementation principles for Variable Impedance Actuation

Theme 3.17:Tactile sensing for robotic arms and dextrous hands

Theme 3.18:Wearable haptic systems for dexterous teleoperation and virtual Immersion

Theme 3.19: Development of a high performance haptic tele-manipulation system

Theme 3.20: Development of a multimodal VR platform for a haptic hand exoskeleton

For further details concerning these themes see the technical Annex A4 in the link http://www.studenti.unige.it/postlaurea/dottorati/xxviiiciclo/IITen or write to the contact person of the selected theme.





Application Requirements:

Interested candidates holding a Master degree in Mechanical / Electrical engineering, computer science, or other related fields are invited to apply for admission. Applicants should be highly motivated and goal oriented. They should have the ability to work independently as well as in a team.



Application Procedure:

To apply please send a detailed CV, a statement of motivation, at least 2 reference letters, degree certificates,  transcripts of grades and any additional support material to the contact person of the selected theme. In addition, the applicants should fill the online application form at http://www.studenti.unige.it/postlaurea/dottorati/xxviiiciclo/IITen no later than the 21st of September 2012.





Application deadline: September 21, 2012 (12 noon, Italian time)





Detailed list of PhD themes:

Theme 3.9: New design and implementation principles for Variable Impedance Actuation
The Department of Advances Robotics is currently one of the leading research institutes working in the development and integration of compliant actuators in robots.  Series compliant actuators are increasingly being considered for actuation of a new generation of human centred robots. In human robot interaction and friendly robotics the introduction of springs in series with the electric motors provides to the robots passive compliance which is an extra measure of safety when interacting with humans. In robots operating in unstructured environments, such as humanoids, series elastic actuation provides instantaneous compliance to impulse loads protecting the mechanics and assisting the controller to absorb the impact. Depending on the mechanical design and control method used, elastic components in the actuation may also allow for energy storage and recovery during gait or in high power actions such as throwing, kicking and jumping.  However, the introduction of springs in the robot's actuation alters the dynamics of the system significantly compared to that of a rigid robot and makes control more prone to oscillation. For this reason we also consider the addition of mechanical damping in parallel to the elastic components.
The goal of this PhD will be the development of new design principles of variable impedance actuation with actively controlled variable mechanical compliance and damping/braking.  This research will investigate actuator power, stiffness and damping specifications for a range of foreseen applications which will be followed by a compete modeling of the system in terms of physical and electromechanical components. The developed actuators will be considered for anthropomorphic arms and for walking robots. Research in the utility and control of the actuator will extend also toward energy storage and recovery in high power bursts such as throwing, kicking and jumping of anthropomorphic robots.

We are seeking candidates with a background in Electronic/Mechanical engineering, Physical Sciences or Robotics. Experience and competencies in CAD mechanical design, modeling of electromechanical systems and knowledge of robot kinematics analysis would be a benefit.
For further details concerning the research project, please contact: ioannis.sarakoglou at iit.it<mailto:ioannis.sarakoglou at iit.it>  and nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it<mailto:nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it>


Theme 3.17:Tactile sensing for robotic arms and dextrous hands
Tactile sensing is an important area in haptics, teleoperation and robotic dexterous manipulation. Manipulation of objects through dextrous multi Degree of Freedom robotic hands can only be efficiently performed if the interaction between the robotic hand and the object is effectively sensed.  Currently research and development in tactile sensing is directed toward anthropomorphic sensors which attempt to match the sensing capabilities of the human skin and which resemble its mechanical properties.  This proves to be a great and exiting challenge.  The spatiotemporal sensing resolution of the human skin with thousands of mechanoreceptor organs in the finger pad areas and its large sensing range spanning from 10ths of milli Newtons up to tens of Newtons generate very demanding specifications for the design of anthropomorphic tactile sensors.
This research will focus on new tactile sensing technologies for robotic arms and dextrous robotic hands. It will involve research in both distributed pressure tactile sensing in the form of highly anthropomorphic/bio-mimetic compliant artificial skins and force sensing with semi-rigid skins in the form of high accuracy monolithic force/torque sensors.  Toward artificial skins new sensor designs will be researched based on the current sensing technologies such as resistive, capacitive, piezoelectric, piezoresistive and other technologies. New methods will be sought for developing and integrating large populations of sensing elements into compliant materials suitable to operate as robotic skins.  The candidate will tackle the technological challenges in connectivity, power, and the signal processing of the distributed sensor. The candidate will work closely within a team of researchers and technicians toward developing working systems with a final goal to integrate tactile sensing in humanoid platforms such as the COMAN and c-Cub (http://www.iit.it/en/advr-labs/humanoids-a-human-centred-mechatronics/advr-humanoids-projects/compliant-humanoid-platform-coman.html) robots and in dextrous teleoperation applications in platforms such as the KUKA LWR robot, the DLR hand, and the BarrettHand(tm).

The ideal candidate will be a talented individual with an Electronics or Mechatronics background and a strong performance in hardware design projects. The candidate should be willing to work in diverse areas, ranging from simulation (MATLAB, Maple Sim, etc), hardware design and software development (C++).
For further details concerning the research project, please contact: ioannis.sarakoglou at iit.it<mailto:ioannis.sarakoglou at iit.it>  and nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it<mailto:nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it>.



Theme 3.18:Wearable haptic systems for dexterous teleoperation and virtual Immersion
The sense of touch is crucial in any kind of Virtual Reality simulation or teleoperation procedure where the performed task requires the user to extensively engage his hand and fingers. In recent years the rapid improvements in hardware and software toward providing effective force/touch feedback has led to the development of generic haptic devices that have been applied in various training simulators and teleoperation systems. However, in most of these instances the mobility, dexterity and general utility for unencumbered use are relatively poor. In addition these systems work as joysticks providing only point contact and cannot address much more complex haptic scenarios where hands (groping with fingers or manipulation) are used to feel forces of varying levels while manipulating objects in a large workspace. Furthermore, in existing wearable force feedback devices, such as in hand exoskeletons, high fidelity tactile feedback at the finger tip is currently absent. This means that teleoperation or simulation of tasks such as lifting a nail from a table or picking a wire from a bundle, where precision grips with tactile feedback at the fingertips are necessary, is not currently available.  To be of any advantage the touch modality should be conveyed to the user in a natural manner through a highly perceptive and transparent haptic interface.
This PhD will concentrate on the development and integration of force and tactile feedback in a multi degree of freedom haptic system based on a semi-exoskeleton design incorporating a hand exoskeleton and a grounded haptic arm with large working, volume, high back-drivability and multimodal feedback capability. Existing design directions in novel actuation systems, hand exoskeletons and tactile feedback systems developed in the department will form the foundation where this PhD theme will build toward a highly integrated wearable system for precision dextrous tele-manipulation.

We are seeking candidates with a background in Electronic/Mechanical engineering Physical Sciences or Robotics. Experience and competencies in CAD mechanical design and knowledge of robot kinematics analysis would be a benefit. (Mechanical design 50%, Kinematics 30%, Control 20%)
For further details concerning the research project, please contact: ioannis.sarakoglou at iit.it<mailto:ioannis.sarakoglou at iit.it>  and nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it<mailto:nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it>




Theme 3.19: Development of a high performance haptic tele-manipulation system
Haptic teleoperation systems using dexterous robotic hands offer potential benefits to many applications, for instance manipulation of objects/materials in hazardous or inaccessible environments (nuclear, space, chemical, etc), minimally invasive surgery and telemedicine. However, making these systems intuitive and transparent represents a big challenge for robotic research. This PhD will focus on the development a high performance haptic teleoperation system for the dextrous manipulation of remote objects. The remote site of the system will consist of a compliant robotic arm integrated with a dexterous robotic hand and the operator site will consist of a hand exoskeleton with tactile feedback displays at the fingertips. The teleoperation system will work in an impedance control fashion. In that, the hand exoskeleton worn by the human operator will provide measurement of the human finger positions to be used for controlling the finger positions of the remote robotic hand. The interaction forces measured by the robotic hand when grasping remote objects will be presented to the operator's fingertips through the hand exoskeleton. Tactile feedback from the remote interaction will also be presented at the operator's fingertips through the integrated tactile displays. Within the framework of a teleoperation platform the candidate will work on algorithms for visual, haptic and tactile feedback, spatial mapping between the human hand and the robot hand and for addressing the time delay of the teleoperation system. To integrating tactile feedback in teleoperation alterative approaches to direct tactile sensing will be considered such as model based tactile feedback. A range of sensors will be considered for estimating the location, the shape and possibly material properties of the remote objects. In particular vision tracking and object recognition from the remote scene will assist in generating accurate models of the remote environment for application in haptic feedback.

Interested candidates holding a Master degree in Mechanical / Electrical engineering, computer science, or other related fields are invited to apply for admission. Applicants should ideally have strong competencies in one or more of the followings areas: haptic interfaces, system modelling/ rigid body dynamics, robot control and C/C++ programming.
For further details concerning this research project, please contact: nadia.garcia at iit.it<mailto:nadia.garcia at iit.it> and nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it<mailto:nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it>


Theme 3.20: Development of a multimodal VR platform for a haptic hand exoskeleton
In haptics the simulation of touch is performed with force feedback/kinaesthetic devices which generate interaction forces to the user's hand and through tactile feedback devices which simulate small scale contact interactions with the skin. In Virtual Reality there is an increasing demand for powerful simulators able to provide kinaesthetic and tactile feedback to human operators through multi-fingered haptic devices such as hand exoskeletons and to simulate haptic interactions with virtual objects. This project aims at developing a high performance multimodal VR platform for grasping, manipulating and exploring virtual objects using a multi-fingered hand exoskeleton integrated with tactile feedback displays at the fingertips. The multimodal VR platform will allow the control of the hand exoskeleton based on a multi-point and soft-finger contact interaction and will create highly realistic simulations. Multi-fingered interaction with rigid and also deformable objects will be considered for the development of the VR platform. For generating the appropriate control signals for the hand exoskeleton according to the forces obtained from the virtual interaction the mapping of the kinematics of the virtual hand, the user's hand and the exoskeleton will be addressed. Tactile feedback to the user will be considered both for the simulation of contact through vibration and through high fidelity shape recreation with integrated tactile feedback arrays located at the exoskeleton's fingertips. To achieve the project's goals the successful candidate will be expected to develop novel algorithms for (1) precise collision detection between a virtual hand and rigid/deformable virtual objects, (2) generating the tactile and force feedback to the fingertips based on a multi-point and soft-finger contact and (3) controlling the hand exoskeleton and the fingertip tactile display hardware.
Interested candidates holding a Master degree in computer science, mechanical / Electrical engineering, or other related fields are invited to apply for admission. Applicants should ideally have strong competencies in one or more of the followings areas: HCI (Human Computer Interaction), haptic interfaces, robot control and C/C++ programming. Any additional experience in robotics research will be a plus.
For further details concerning this research project, please contact: nadia.garcia at iit.it<mailto:nadia.garcia at iit.it> and nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it<mailto:nikos.tsagarakis at iit.it>





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Dr. Ioannis Sarakoglou (BEng, PhD)
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia
Department of Advanced Robotics
Via Morego, 30
16163 Genova, Italy
t:+39 010 71781274
f:+39 010 71781232



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