FROM NOW ON IT WILL BE POSSIBLE TO ACCURATELY MONITOR AND ANALYSE HOW STROKE PATIENTS MOVE DURING EVERYDAY LIFE. THIS INVOLVES THE USE OF A NEW SUIT FITTED WITH 41 SENSORS, PLUS THE INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDED TO TRANSMIT, STORE AND PROCESS ALL OF THE DATA COLLECTED. THIS TECHNOLOGY AND INFORMATION WILL MAKE IT POSSIBLE TO IMPROVE THE REHABILITATION PROCESS AND CUT HEALTHCARE COSTS.
Bart Klaassen developed the system together with an international team of engineers and healthcare professionals. He will defend his thesis (which is based on this research) on 30 November, at the University of Twente. “The technology is finally ready.”
Every year, about 45,000 people in the Netherlands suffer a stroke. As many as 33 million people throughout the world suffered strokes in 2010. With our aging population, it seems logical to expect a further increase in these numbers in the upcoming years. Stroke survivors often have to cope with physical limitations. They generally take part in rehabilitation programmes, which are intended to help patients function as effectively as possible in their everyday lives.
In practice, however, rehabilitation mainly takes place in rehabilitation clinics. Not enough is known about how, after completing such programmes, patients cope with their limitations in a daily life setting. Yet it is known that a better understanding of how these people function in everyday life could lead to more effective rehabilitation, at a lower cost. In the context of a European FP7 research project, Bart Klaassen (a PhD student at the University of Twente) and a large team of researchers developed a system for accurately measuring and modelling these patients’ movement quality, and for transmitting the relevant information to the therapist. This project is a world first. Never before have researchers used systems like this to analyse these patients’ every movement in a daily life setting. “There has long been a great need for systems like this, but the technology simply was not ready”, says Klaassen. “That is now changing rapidly, thanks to rapid developments in the fields of battery technology, wearables, smart e-textiles and big data analysis.”
Together with a large consortium of engineers and healthcare professionals, Bart Klaassen developed the INTERACTION System. This consists of a suit that study subjects had to wear under their clothing for three months, as well as the entire technical infrastructure needed to transmit, store and process the data collected. The suit contains no less than 41 sensors, including sensors on a large number of body segments, sensors that measure muscle strength, stretch sensors on the back and the hands, and force sensors in the soles of the shoes. In addition, the suit is equipped with a portable transmitter that can transmit all of the information gathered through the internet to data processing servers at the University of Twente.
In the course of his PhD research, Klaassen showed that the system works well in practice. “We have been able to demonstrate that all the information is transmitted successfully, that this process is very efficient, and much more besides. We have succeeded in modelling all of the relevant movements, and in cleaning up the data that is relevant for the therapist by filtering out the rest.Our project has delivered new techniques and methods that can be used to monitor patients at home for extended periods of time, and to identify any differences with structured clinical measurements. We are currently engaged in further research to obtain final verification that these methods are indeed an ideal way of supervising rehabilitation.”
When developing this system, Bart Klaassen and the team adopted a user-centred design approach. This enabled them to continually incorporate feedback from the patients involved into the development of the system. Other relevant parties – such as insurance companies and healthcare professionals – were also involved in the design and research work at an early stage.
Future robots that continuously inspect our dykes, don’t come across an electrical charging station every few hours. Using a smart gear box for the robot, UT researcher Douwe Dresscher manages to drastically reduce the energy consumption. The energy-autonomous robot comes closer.
Inspecting the condition of dykes and other sea defence structures is typically a task for robots, working in a team in a highly autonomous way. But if they move around across the dykes, perform tests and communicating the results for six hours a day, they use a lot of energy. Introducing charging stations are not a very realistic scenario. Douwe Dresscher did research on making the robot as autonomous as possible. He does that by charging mechanical energy and by introducing an innovative automatic gear box: it is a modern version of the ‘variomatic’ – Du ‘pientere pookje’ – used in Dutch DAF automobilies. Instead of a belt drive, like in the variomatic, two metal hemispheres are used.
Rolling or walking
The first consideration Dresscher had to take into account, was about the best way of moving on the dyke: using wheels, caterpillar tracks or legs. Wheels do quite well and energy efficient on an even surface, but a wet and muddy slope is something quite different. Tracks are more powerful in this case, but they can damage the dyke by the way they turn. And they are quite energy inefficient. Surprisingly, a walking robot performs best, with four to six legs. In a world without friction, supply and demand of energy are in balance in a walking robot. Nevertheless, they still consume a lot of energy. Existing commercial walking robots always wear a big battery pack.
Electromotors are primarily responsible for this high level of energy consumption. They perform best at high revolution speeds and low torques, but in the walking movement, they often work at low revs and high torques. By storing energy not in an electrical but in a mechanical way, the electromotors can do their job in the best operation regimen, and mechanical energy can be reused. This is what Dresscher calls Controlled Passive Actuation.
The system stores mechanical energy in a spring, for example. A cleverly designed gear box takes care of the optimum transmission. Two half turning half hemisphers therefore are constantly in contact. The angle changes when the torque changes – resulting in another relative radius. The difference in effective radiuses determines the transfer ratio and the best mechanical load. The electromotors join in, only to compensate for mechanical losses. By doing so, they can work within the high rev – low torque regime.
To make the dyke robots fully self-supporting – sensing and communication also require energy – they will have to ‘harvest’ energy when moving. Solar and wind energy are options, as well as biomass. Dresscher didn’t look into this in details: his work is fully on the locomotion part of the robot and the powertrain. For actual use in robots, this has to made smaller and mechanical losses can still be reduced.
The powertrain is specifically designed for future dyke inspection robots, but improving the energy efficiency of existing robots and robot arms is attractive as well.
Simple system can recognize sixty percent of human touches
A SQUEEZE IN THE ARM, A PAT ON THE SHOULDER, OR A SLAP IN THE FACE – TOUCH IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE SOCIAL INTERACTION BETWEEN PEOPLE. SOCIAL TOUCH, HOWEVER, IS A RELATIVELY UNKNOWN FIELD WHEN IT COMES TO ROBOTS, EVEN THOUGH ROBOTS OPERATE WITH INCREASING FREQUENCY IN SOCIETY AT LARGE, RATHER THAN JUST IN THE CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT OF A FACTORY.
Merel Jung is conducting research at the University of Twente CTIT research institute into social touch interaction with robots. Using a relatively simple system – a mannequin’s arm with pressure sensors, connected to a computer – she has succeeded in getting it to recognize sixty percent of all touches. The research is being published in the Journal on Multimodal User Interfaces scientific journal.
Robots are becoming more and more social. A well-known example of a social robot is Paro, a robot seal that is used in care homes, where it has a calming effect on the elderly residents and stimulates their senses. Positive results have been achieved with the robot for this target group, but we still have a long way to go before robots can correctly recognize, interpret, and respond to different types of social touch in the way that people can. It is a relatively little explored area in science, but one in which much could be achieved in the long term. Examples that come to mind are robots that assist children with autism in improving their social contacts, or robots that train medicine students for real-life situations.
Merel Jung is therefore carrying out research at the University of Twente into social touch interaction between humans and robots. In order to enable a robot to respond in the correct manner to being touched, she has identified four different stages. The robot must perceive, be able to recognize, interpret, and then respond in the correct way. In this phase of her research, Jung focused on the first two stages – perceiving and recognizing. With a relatively simple experiment, involving a mannequin’s arm fitted with 64 pressure sensors, she has succeeded in distinguishing sixty percent of almost 8,000 touches (distributed over fourteen different types of touch at three levels of intensity). Sixty percent does not seem very high on the face of it, but it is a good figure if you bear in mind that there was absolutely no social context and that various touches are very similar to each other. Possible examples include the difference between grabbing and squeezing, or stroking roughly and rubbing gently. In addition, the people touching the mannequin’s arm had been given no instructions on how to ‘perform’ their touches, and the computer system was not able to ‘learn’ how the individual ‘touchers’ operated. In similar circumstances, people too would not be able to correctly recognize every single touch. In her follow-up research, which Jung is currently undertaking, she is concentrating on how robots can interpret touch in a social context. It is expected that robots, by interpreting the context, will be better able to respond to touch correctly, and that therefore the touch robot will be one step closer to reality.
Learn more: First Steps Towards The Touch Robot
THE R2-D2 ROBOT FROM STAR WARS DOESN’T COMMUNICATE IN HUMAN LANGUAGE BUT IS, NEVERTHELESS, CAPABLE OF SHOWING ITS INTENTIONS. FOR HUMAN-ROBOT INTERACTION, THE ROBOT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE A TRUE ‘HUMANOID’. PROVIDED THAT ITS SIGNALS ARE DESIGNED IN THE RIGHT WAY, UT RESEARCHER DAPHNE KARREMAN SAYS.
A human being will only be capable of communicating with robots if this robot has many human characteristics. That is the common idea. But mimicking natural movements and expressions is complicated, and some of our nonverbal communication is not really suitable for robots: wide arm gestures, for example. Humans prove to be capable of responding in a social way, even to machines that look like machines. We have a natural tendency of translating machine movements and signals to the human world. Two simple lenses on a machine can make people wave to the machine.
Knowing that, designing intuitive signals is challenging. In her research, Daphne Karreman focused on a robot functioning as a guide in a museum or a zoo. If the robot doesn’t have arms, can it still point to something the visitors have to look at? Using speech, written language, a screen, projection of images on a wall and specific movements, the robot has quite a number of ‘modalities’ that humans don’t have. Add to this playing with light and colour, and even a ‘low-anthropomorphic’ robot can be equipped with strong communication skills. It goes way beyond R2-D2 that communicates using beeps that need to be translated first. Karreman’s PhD thesis is therefore entitled ‘Beyond R2-D2’.
IN THE WILD
Karreman analysed a huge amount of video data to see how humans respond to a robot. Up to now, this type of research was mainly done in controlled lab situations, without other people present or after the test person was informed about what was going to happen. In this case, the robot was introduced ‘in the wild’ and in an unstructured way. People could come across the robot in the Real Alcázar Palace, Sevilla, for example. They decide for themselves if they want to be guided by a robot. What makes them keep distance, do people recognize what this robot is capable of?
To analyse these video data, Karreman developed a tool called Data Reduction Event Analysis Method (DREAM). The robot called Fun Robotic Outdoor Guide (FROG) has a screen, communicates using spoken language and light signals, and has a small pointer on its ‘head’. All by itself, FROG recognizes if people are interested in interaction and guidance. Thanks to the powerful DREAM tool, for the first time it is possible to analyse and classify human-robot interaction in a fast and reliable way. Unlike other methods, DREAM will not interpret all signals immediately, but it compares several ‘coders’ for a reliable and reproducible result.
How many people show interest, do they join the robot during the entire tour, do they respond as expected? It is possible to evaluate this using questionnaires, but that places the robot in a special position: people primarily come to visit the expo or zoo and not for meeting a robot. Using the DREAM tool, spontaneous interaction becomes more visible and thus, robot behaviour can be optimized.
Learn more: ROBOT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE HUMAN LOOK-ALIKE
Injecting bubbles at a ship’s hull is an effective way of reducing drag, and fuel consumption of the ship.
That is, if those bubbles have the right size. Researchers of the University of Twente show that the reduction is negligible when tiny bubbles are used. Large, deformable bubbles do the trick, the scientists conclude in Physical Review Letters of September 2.
Blowing bubbles underneath a ship’s hull, causes them to be pushed against the surface. In the surface layer between the ship and water, these air bubbles cause less friction: it’s also known as air lubrication. In practice, friction can be reduced 20 percent, with a huge impact on fuel consumption and CO2 emission. The precise mechanism is still unknown, as the local water flow is complex and turbulent. As the UT scientists prove now: the size of the bubbles make a big difference: tiny bubble don’t have a net effect at all. This may seem counterintuitive, but large bubbles that can be deformed easily, give the strongest effect.
For investigating the effects, the University of Twente has a unique ‘Taylor Couette’ setup, capable of generating fully developed turbulent flow. This machine consist of two large cylinders with fluid in between. When the inner cylinder is turning fast, injected bubbles will be pressed against the surface, just like they do at the ship’s hull. At the surface of the cylinder, they start influencing friction/drag. This setup enables the scientists to search for the relevant parameters in efficient air lubrication.
With four percent of air in the water, a reduction of 40 percent is feasible in the experimental setup, using large, millimeter size bubbles. By adding a tiny amount of ‘surfactant’, the scientists were able to vary the surface tension between bubbles and water, and they could vary bubble dimensions. The other properties, like flow speed and density, were kept the same. What was the result? On average, the bubbles get much smaller, because the surfactant prevents bubbles getting together, coalescing, forming larger bubbles. Within the turbulent flow, the bubble have a uniform distribution and moreover, they will not be pushed against the surface. With, again, four percent of air that is in microbubbles now, there is four percent reduction: there is no net air lubrication at the ship’s hull. Ruben Verschoof: “From previous experiments, we knew that deformable bubbles work well, but in no way we expected a dramatic difference like this.
By doing the experiments in real life turbulent flows, and not in the simplified situation of slow and laminary flow, the outcome of this research is directly applicable in the naval sector. For reducing drag in pipelines, the experiments also provide valuable new insight.
Learn more: AIR LUBRICATION: LARGE BUBBLES DO THE TRICK
Our brain does not work like a typical computer memory storing just ones and zeroes: thanks to a much larger variation in memory states, it can calculate faster consuming less energy. Scientists of the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology of the University of Twente (The Netherlands) now developed a ferro-electric material with a memory function resembling synapses and neurons in the brain, resulting in a multistate memory. They publish their results in this week’s Advanced Functional Materials.
The material that could be the basic building block for ‘brain-inspired computing’ is lead-zirconium-titanate (PZT): a sandwich of materials with several attractive properties. One of them is that it is ferro-electric: you can switch it to a desired state, this state remains stable after the electric field is gone. This is called polarization: it leads to a fast memory function that is non-volatile. Combined with processor chips, a computer could be designed that starts much faster, for example. The UT scientists now added a thin layer of zinc oxide to the PZT, 25 nanometer thickness. They discovered that switching from one state to another not only happens from ‘zero’ to ‘one’ vice versa. It is possible to control smaller areas within the crystal: will they be polarized (‘flip’) or not?
University of Twente (Dutch: Universiteit Twente; Dutch pronunciation: [ynivɛrsiˈtɛit ˈtʋɛntə]) is a university located in Enschede, Netherlands.
It offers research and degree programmes in the social and behavioral sciences and in engineering.
In keeping with its entrepreneurial spirit, the University is committed to making economic and social contribution to the region of the Netherlands where it is based. The UT collaborates with Delft University of Technology and Eindhoven University of Technology under the umbrella of the 3TU.Federation, and is also a partner in the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU).
The degree programmes at the University of Twente range from business administration, psychology to applied physics, engineering and biomedical technology. The curriculum is broad, flexible and relevant to the labour market. Most students combine coursework in their major subject with a coherent set of minors in another discipline. A growing number of foreign students are finding their way to the UT. Almost all postgraduate programmes (and several undergraduate programmes) are taught in English. Half of all PhD students at the UT now come from outside the Netherlands.
The University of Twente has a world class research programme. In the applied sciences, the emphasis is on nanotechnology, process technology, engineering, information & communication technology, and the biomedical sciences. The University also has a strong track record in management and behavioural sciences.
The University of Twente sets great importance on the useful application of knowledge in the society. Patents, lifelong learning programmes, and spin-off companies testify to this commitment, as does UT’s intensive involvement in research programmes that enhance knowledge infrastructure in the Netherlands. So far, the UT has produced over 700 spin-off companies; more than any other Dutch university.
The Latest Updated Research News:
University of Twente research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Brain-inspired multistate memory material stores more than just zeroes and ones – July 9, 2016
- Robot caregivers safer with new position actuator technology – June 8, 2016
- Super-sharp images through thin optical fibres – January 30, 2016
- Three-Dimensional Nanostructure Manufacturing Discovery Provides New Opportunities for Chips – November 22, 2015
- Researchers Develop (R)evolutionary Circuits – September 23, 2015
- Robotically Steered Flexible Needles Navigate in Tissue – August 27, 2015
- Space-eye-view could help stop global wildlife decline – July 23, 2015
- 3D Printing With Metals Achieved – June 14, 2015
- Smart Algorithms Secure Chip Cards against Hackers – – May 24, 2015
- Research Opens the Way to Living Implants – April 29, 2015
- THREE-DIMENSIONAL MICROTECHNOLOGY WITH ORIGAMI FOLDING ART – November 18, 2014
- The Internet of Things – Underwater: The Sunrise Project – September 14, 2014
- More energy from a litre of biofuel – July 19, 2014
- Here Come the “Brobots” – June 15, 2014
- Squeezing Transistors Really Hard Generates Energy Savings
- Human Robot Getting Closer
- Tire recycling breakthrough for Dutch research team
- Radically Different Sensor System Inspired by Bird Migration
- Cricket Hair Sensor is “Highlight” of Bio-inspired Technology
- Researchers demonstrate self-repairing chip
- Toshiba’s spintronics transistor and a new storage mechanism in silicon come to life
- Solar powered microchips put batteries in the shade
- Microchip Harvests Its Own Energy
- New chip could allow antenna arrays to replace satellite dishes
- PLAYING WITH BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACES
NEW METHOD UT CHECKS SUSPICIOUS PATTERNS
The brute force and sheer scale of current Internet attacks put a heavy strain on classic methods of intrusion detection. Moreover, these methods aren’t prepared for the rapidly growing number of connected devices: scalability is a major issue. PhD researcher Rick Hofstede, of the University of Twente’s CTIT institute, proposes another way of monitoring internet traffic, thus tracing those attacks that actually have an effect and not all the others. The open source software he developed, is already being tested and used by several organizations in the world. Hofstede defends his PhD thesis on June 29.
Boldly trying a massive number of user name and password until you have that unique combination: that is an example of a ‘brute force’ Internet attack. Once having gained access to the user’s computer, it can, in turn, be used for spreading illegal content or for performing a DDoS attack. Without knowing, users turn into attackers this way. This type of attacks take place via web applications that are relatively vulnerable, like WordPress or Joomla, but also using the Secure Shell (SSH) which enables remote login to a device. Check the contents of the data coming in, analyze network traffic and log files on every single computer: that’s the classic approach.
According to Rick Hofstede, this implies analyzing a vast amount of data that will never have effect. Within a network of a larger organizations, with probably tens of thousands of computers, smartphones and tablets connected, it will soon be impossible to check every single device.
Robots carry out their tasks more safely if they are controlled by another technology. This makes them much more suitable for use in the care sector, as revealed by a study conducted at the Robotics and Mechatronics department at the University of Twente. On 2 June, researcher Stefan Groothuis was awarded his PhD for this work.
In the coming years the use of assistive robotics, as they are known, will become ever more important due to the increased ageing of the population and the steadily rising costs of care. Already, robot technology is very valuable for people with a physical handicap when it comes to carrying out everyday tasks. A robot arm on a wheelchair or table, for instance, enables a person to open the door or pick up a glass by themselves, meaning that this group of patients is less dependent on health care workers and also increasing the patients’ quality of life.
OBSTACLES AND PERSONS
However, in practice the existing form of robotics are not ideal for a care-support function because the systems are based on robots that carry out repetitive tasks in industry. These robots generally behave as rigid and less safe systems: the system that controls the electromotors (actuators) lacks the flexibility that is required in an unfamiliar domestic environment. The robot will often seek the shortest route from A to B, taking little or no account of obstacles or persons in its immediate surroundings. And so there is a relatively large risk of the robot or the obstacle being damaged.
Conservation scientists need to collaborate with space agencies, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), to identify measures which help track biodiversity declines around the world.
In a move that previously proved successful in helping to monitor climate change on a global scale, scientists believe that space technology could help track biodiversity across the planet. Satellite images can quickly reveal where and how to reverse the loss of biological diversity. Vegetation productivity or leaf cover can, for example, be measured across continents from space while providing information about biodiversity levels on the ground.