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VUB (Flanders) part of EU project on ergonomic robotics

VUB, one of Flanders’ universities, is participating in the SOPHIA research consortium with three research groups. Supported by the European Horizon 2020, this ambitious R&D project aims to develop a new generation of cobots and exoskeletons for healthier and more ergonomic workplaces.  

Horizon2020 funding

Over 40 million employees across Europe currently suffer from muscle, joint or nerve pains caused by physically demanding tasks at work. What’s more, almost half of the longer-term absences in organizations result from musculoskeletal discomforts. Innovative robots, cobots and exoskeletons could offer a solution to help employees cope with heavy and repetitive work tasks.  

The European research and innovation program Horizon 2020 is therefore investing EUR 6.5 million in SOPHIA, an international research consortium set up to design, integrate and evaluate a new generation of ergonomic cobots and exoskeletons. SOPHIA’s goal is to create safe, hybrid workplaces for humans and robots, ultimately reducing absenteeism and increasing the productivity of organizations. 

3 research groups in Flanders

Short for ‘Socio-physical Interaction Skills for Cooperative Human-Robot Systems in Agile Production’, SOPHIA unites 12 partners from 6 countries who specialize in robotics and the social and physical interactions of robots in the workplace. The BruBotics research center of VUB – one of Flanders’ universities – is joining the project with 3 research groups. Each will oversee a different aspect of the SOPHIA project.  

As such, robotics and core lab manager Bram Vanderborght from strategic research center Flanders Make will be responsible for the software design to control the robots. Kevin de Pauw, project coordinator at MFYS Human Physiology research group, will conduct research into how people react physically and cognitively to the use of robots. Finally, Prof. An Jacobs – associated with research group SMIT, which was cofounded by strategic research center imec – will evaluate the social acceptance and desirability of the innovations from a centrally human point of view.  

More info

Reported by
VUB website and De Tijd newspaper
28 August 2020

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