by George A. Rovithakis, Director, Automation and Robotics Laboratory,

Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

The Automation and Robotics Laboratory (ARL) of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh) conducts research and offers consulting services, all in the areas of automation, robotics and control systems. It has strong connections with many research laboratories in Europe and the US and collaborations with various robotic companies and industries.

ARL has a long standing research record in the areas of robotics and control systems. In the field of robotics, the lab has expertise in the areas of physical human-robot interaction, safety, object grasping and manipulation, redundant and flexible joint manipulators, and model free control of robotic systems with prescribed performance guarantees.

In the automatic control field, ARL is specializing in the control of complex and uncertain systems with prescribed performance guarantees, intelligent control systems, multi-agent systems, adaptive systems, control of computer networks, automatic fault detection and control reconfiguration of dynamical systems, and control over computer networks.

ARL is also active in the fields of optimization, dynamical systems modeling and simulation, computational intelligence and learning, utilizing artificial neural networks and fuzzy systems.

ARL’s research group has participated in over 20 research projects funded or co-funded by EU and two EU networks of excellence, namely EVONET (Network of Excellence in Evolutionary Computing) and EURON (European Robotics Network). Some of the most recently completed projects were RAMCIP (Robotic Assistant for MCI Patients at home) and SARAFun (Smart Assembly Robot with Advanced FUNctionalities), all being H2020 European projects, where members of ARL participated as CERTH/ITI associates.

Human-Robot collaborative object transfer

Currently, key personnel from ARL is involved in the following European H2020 research projects, covering robotic applications in medicine, manufacturing and agriculture. In particular,

  1. SMARTsurg (SMart weArable Robotic Teleoperated Surgery), whose objective is to develop advanced systems for performing Robot Assisted Minimal Invasive Surgery, to reduce the surgeon’s cognitive load related to the system’s operation, to shorten training time and deliver accuracy, safety, reduced procedure time and expanded applicability.

  2. CoLLaboratE (Co-production CeLL performing Human-Robot Collaborative AssEmbly) Traditional manufacturing systems lack the necessary flexibility and reconfigurability that can allow short production cycles and fast deployment of the updated system. Although the use of automation technologies based on industrial robots can increase the adaptability of a production line, the desired flexibility cannot be achieved until abilities for genuine collaboration of the robots with the human workers are developed. CoLLaboratE aims to revolutionize the way industrial robots learn to cooperate with human workers for performing new manufacturing tasks, with special focus on the challenging area of assembly operations. The envisioned system for collaborative assembly will be capable of allocating human and robotic resources for executing the production plan sharing the tasks according to the capabilities of the available actors.

  3. BACCHUS (MoBile Robotic PlAtforms for ACtive InspeCtion and Harvesting in AgriCultural AreaS) with the objective to provide an autonomous robotic ecosystem utilizing mobile platforms and manipulators for intelligent inspection and selective harvesting of high-value crops.

Manipulation of large and heavy objects

In the aforementioned projects, AUTh ARL participates with tasks involving physical human-robot interaction, imposing constraints for safe interaction in dynamic environments, learning a task by demonstration and collaborative object transfer between a human and a robot.

The team leaders of ARL are three senior members of the ECE Department of AUTh, Prof. George A. Rovithakis (Director, Automatic Control Systems), Prof. Zoe Doulgeri (Robotics) and Prof. John Theocharis (Computational Intelligence). The rest of the team currently consists of four postdoctoral researchers, twelve PhD students, one research assistant and is constantly expanding.

This article is published in the January/ February issue of Greek Business File,  part of the cover story on the autonomous production methods powered by robots. GBF presents the global trends in the robotics markets, the level of robotic process automation in Greek enterprises, the pioneers of the sector in Greece and the Greek companies that have emerged as Industrial Robot Companies. The January / February issue of Greek Business File is available here.