The National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Robotics is a Swiss nationwide organisation funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation pulling together top researchers from all over the country with the objective of developing new, human oriented robotic technology for improving our quality of life. The Centre was opened on 1st December 2010, and binds together experts from six world-class research institutions; École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) (leading house), Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH Zurich) (co-leading house), Universität Zürich (UZH), Istituto Dalle Molle di Studi sull’Intelligenza Artificiale (IDSIA) Lugano, University of Bern (UNIBE) and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) for a period of up to 12 years.
NCCR Robotics promotes three main strands of research:
Wearable robots: We work with neurologists and physicians to truly understand the human body and nervous system so that robots are attuned to the needs of the wearer. This includes enabling prosthetic limbs to process impulses from the brain and developing soft technologies to make wearable and rehabilitation robots more practical and natural.
Rescue robots: We develop new types of flying, walking, and swimming robots that are portable and safe for humans, and could be used for disaster areas or in normal life for exploration and transportation. Our robots are unique because they have been engineered to perform multiple types of locomotion, such as walking and either flying, grasping or swimming.
Education robots: We are designing new modular and reconfigurable robots fitted with sensors and actuators to provide an effective and affordable tool for teaching in schools and universities. Aside from our research aims, we are also active in the fields of education and training (kids, undergraduates and postgraduates), knowledge and technology transfer (industrial liaison), advancement of women and communication.
NCCR Robotics aims to have a lasting legacy in the field of robotics research in Switzerland. At the EPFL campus, we have been instrumental in the creation of the MED building, whereby robotics laboratories at EPFL now share a common building and common resources. Similarly, the new Campus Biotech in Geneva houses all of our laboratories in Geneva.
In the MED building at EPFL, we have set up the flying arena of 100 square metres in the basement. The arena is equipped with OptiTrack cameras to provide one of the finest possible definitions at the highest possible speed of the largest possible number of moving objects given today’s technology. The arena is a shared space used for both research and student projects. We also set up three 3D printers at EPFL, which our members are free to use for their projects.
At ETH Zurich, the labs of Riener, Gassert and Karlen have moved to a new specially developed research campus at Balgrist University Hospital, allowing them enhance collaborations with the hospital in the field of rehabilitation robotics.