rehabilitation robotics


Rehabilitation robotics aims at taking advantage of robotic technology for rehabilitation treatment of the people with neurological disorders and physical impairments. From a clinical point of view there is the need of a new generation of rehabilitation robots and clinical protocols that will be more effective in helping patients.

ALTAIR Lab objective  is to study and develop enabling technologies for novel rehabilitation robots which exhibits compliant behavior and patient-adaptation. Also we think that future robots will be low cost and mobile. In fact traditional rehabilitation robots are very complex system, they are usually expensive and cumbersome machines and only large therapeutic centers can afford their cost and storage. Instead we focus on simpler and mobile systems at affordable price that can be even be used at home or in small centers.

research topics

  • Active robotic devices based on compliant principles and minimal actuation, see our prototype.
  • Locomotion controllers of passive dynamic walkers
  • Force and impedance control of stiff and soft robots, see our control library

research project in this field

Robotic Orthosis

Design of an emg-controlled upper limb robotic orthosis for muscular weakness

Eurobench project

The FORECAST project focuses on benchmarking force control algorithms for robotic locomotion applications such as exoskeletons and humanoids.

ARGO, the Active Reciprocated Gait Orthosis

ARGO structure is based on a commercial passive Reciprocated Gait Orthosis (RGO) for Cerebral Palsy (CP) children, which has been modified to accomodate sensors and actuators. ARGO is intended for patients who can still apply a certain amount of force with their legs, at least enough to slightly raise up a feet. Thus, we want to motivate the patient to use his muscles by amplifying or facilitating the movements, rather than binding the trajectory to a walking pattern. In fact, although it is possible to find some common patterns on CP patient’s walk (crouch gait, scissor walking or toe walking), the actual walk varies a lot from patient to patient. Each walking strategy comes from the adaptation of the patient to his own body’s pathology, which are highly specific. Thus, forcing the user to adopt a normal walk would be not only useless, but possibly even dangerous for the patient. This drove us to the exigence of developing a non-coercive device, able to detect the force that the wearer is applying with his thigh, and appropriately compensate the joint torque. This is obtained using force control technology. Another innovative aspect is the minimal actuator arrangement which allows to reduce the complexity and cost while exhibiting high system transparency. In fact we arrange pneumatic artificial muscles in non-antagonist configuration exploiting the NFW mechanical reciprocation.

Selected Publications

A. Calanca, R. Muradore, and P. Fiorini, “A Review of Algorithms for Compliant Control of Stiff and Fixed Compliance Robots,” IEEE Trans. Mechatronics, vol. Pre-print, 2014.

A. Calanca, R. Muradore, and P. Fiorini, “Passive Impedance Control of Series Elastic Actuators: Overcoming the Physical Spring Stiffness,” Submitt. to RA Mag.

A. Calanca, R. Muradore, and P. Fiorini, “Passivity of Human-Adaptive Control of Elastic Actuators,” Submitt. to IEEE Trans. Robot.

A. Calanca and P. Fiorini, “Human-Adaptive Control of Series Elastic Actuators,” Robotica, vol. 2, no. 08, pp. 1301–1316, 2014.

A. Calanca and P. Fiorini, “On The Role of Compliance In Force Control,” in International Conference on intelligent Autonomous Systems IAS-13, 2014.

A. Calanca, L. Capisani, and P. Fiorini, “Robust Force Control of Series Elastic Actuators,” Actuators, Spec. Issue Soft Actuators, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 182–204, 2014.

A. Calanca, S. Piazza, and P. Fiorini, “A motor learning oriented, compliant and mobile Gait Orthosis,” Appl. Bionics Biomech., vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 15–27, 2012.

N. Smania, M. Gandolfi, V. Marconi, A. Calanca, C. Geroin, S. Piazza, P. Bonetti, P. Fiorini, A. Cosentino, C. Capelli, D. Conte, M. Bendinelli, D. Munari, P. Ianes, A. Fiaschi, and A. Picelli, “Applicability of a new robotic walking aid in a patient with cerebral palsy,” Eur. J. Phys. Rehabil. Med., vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 47–53, 2012.