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Pioneering bimanual mobile robots for challenging work environments

MANiBOT is one of four projects funded under the call HORIZON-CL4-2022-DIGITAL-EMERGING-02 - Digital and Emerging Technologies for competitiveness and fit for the Green Deal. Its goal is to empower bi-manual, mobile robots to perform a wide variety of manipulation tasks with highly diverse objects, in a human-like manner.

Despite advances in robotic perception, understanding and control, collaborative service robots still demonstrate limited physical performance compared to that of humans.  This is particularly the case when it comes to the sought-after capability of robots being able to manipulate diverse objects safely and efficiently in real, human-populated spaces.  Industrial-grade robots can demonstrate high physical performance, with fast, dexterous and robust object manipulation resembling that of humans or beyond, but only in the context of handling well-known, modelled objects in controlled environments.  Due to these factors, the uptake of robots in key sectors is still limited compared to their vast potential for use.

MANiBOT seeks to revolutionise the robotics landscape by enhancing robots' handling skills including simple grasping, pick-and-place operations, bi-manual and non-prehensile manipulation and ensuring adaptive responses to changing environments or the properties of objects.  To achieve these capabilities, innovations will be developed in the fields of advanced environment understanding, efficient manipulation techniques, robot cognitive functions and physical intelligence.  The project researchers will implement their solutions with four use cases, focusing on baggage handling and supermarket shelves' restocking, piloted by robots in relevant environments.

TWI Hellas is leading the consortium's dissemination, communication and exploitation activities, and the work to integrate the robot operating system (ROS) into the MANiBOT demonstrator.  The team is also working on federated explainable learning, development of the MANiBOT solution’s technical specification and architecture, intuitive and responsive human-robotic interaction (HRI), and human-centric robot scheduling, as well as the lab and pilot sites' preparation, amongst other tasks.

Partners: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Central Institute for Labour Protection - National Research Institute, Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (project coordinator), Diamantis Masoutis Supermarkets, Fraport Regional Airports of Greece Management, Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Schwarz Digital GmbH & Co. KG, Asea Brown Boveri SA, Technical University of Darmstadt, Technical University of Vienna,  University of Bristol, University of Burgos) and TWI Hellas.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme.