Congratulations to
Robots capable of feeling

Robot with sensor skin

Picture: Jörn Blachnitzky; / StudioM1

How does a robotics researcher help paralyzed people learn to walk again? By teaching robots the skills and needs of people. In an innovative new approach, Gordon Cheng from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) is combining robotics with neuroscience to develop robots capable of feeling.

Robotics meets neuroscience

June 12, 2014 will probably always be an unforgettable date for Juliano Pinto, a Brazilian who had already been paraplegic for several years. Supported by a robotic body suit, he was able to kick a football just with the power of his mind. A symbolic way to kick off the soccer World Cup in the sold-out São Paulo stadium, Pinto’s achievement also marked the highlights of the international Walk Again Project, designed to help paralyzed people walk with the aid of an exoskeleton. Gordon Cheng developed a key element of this robotic suit at TUM: the artificial skin that enabled Pinto to feel his own steps.

Cheng is one of the world’s leading experts in humanoid robots. “I love robots,” he affirms. His aim is to use them to help others – and society at large – for instance by teaching people with paraplegia how to walk again, as in Pinto’s case, or by supporting therapy for multiple sclerosis patients.

In pursuit of this aim, Cheng is forging a whole new connection between neuroscience and robotics. At his Institute for Cognitive Systems, scientists from all over the world have come together to advance research in this area, collaborating closely with researchers from other disciplines such as psychology and medicine. All of which is possible thanks to the rich and diverse scientific environment at TUM and across the city of Munich.

“Soon, social interaction with robots will no longer be science fiction, but as safe and natural as of the way we use computers and smartphones today.”

Gordon Cheng

Gordon Cheng, Professor of Cognitive Systems at the Technical University of Munich

Picture: Astrid Eckert / TUM

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