Genova (Italy), March 29th, 2021 - The researcher Arash Ajoudani, tenured senior scientist leading the Human-Robot Interfaces and Physical Interaction (HRI²) laboratory at IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology) in Genova (Italy), has won the prestigious IEEE RAS Early Career Award 2021: it represents the first time ever for a researcher based in Italy. The award is bestowed on individuals in the early stage of their career, who have made an identifiable contribution or contributions, which have had a major impact on the robotics and/or automation fields. Ajoudani, according to the international IEEE RAS experts, contributed "to the theory and technology of (ergonomic) human-robot collaboration and telerobotics", a field which is fundamental for making the industry more competitive and safer in the nearly future.
Ajoudani is currently recipient of a Starting grant from the European Research Council for the ERGO-Lean project, coordinator of the Horizon 2020 project SOPHIA and co-coordinator of the Horizon 2020 project CONCERT. Ajoudani has also contributed to several successful European projects just like WALKMAN, WearHap, SOMA and SoftPro. In recent years, he has won numerous international awards for his research conducted in the field of collaborative industrial robotics like the Amazon Research Awards 2019, the Solution Award 2019 (MECSPE2019) and the KUKA Innovation Award 2018. Moreover, he has also won the WeRob best poster award 2018 and the best student paper award at ROBIO 2013. Arash Ajoudani is currently serving as executive manager of the IEEE-RAS Young Reviewers' Program (YRP) and as chair and representative of the IEEE-RAS Young Professionals Committee. Ajoudani is also the author of the book "Transferring Human Impedance Regulation Skills to Robots" in the Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics (STAR), and several publications in journals, international conferences, and book chapters. The IEEE RAS Early Career Award 2021 represents an icing on the cake for Ajoudani, who has worked on European research programs finding answers to social and technological challenges of the society.
Arash Ajoudani's long way starts from his hometown Tabriz in Iran, studying mathematics and physics becoming soon interested in biomedical engineering. This aspect will lead him to the Teheran Polytechnic University and then to the Iran University of Science and Technology to earn a master's degree. Here, his thesis about the control of movements for paraplegic patients through an electrical stimulation has had a great success having helped people unable to walk to do it for their first time in life. After his studies in his home country, Ajoudani received his PhD degree in Robotics and Automation from the University of Pisa and IIT in 2014. His studies were focused on the transferring of human interaction skills to robots, in order to allow machines to perform numerous actions to support humans in daily life. These studies have played an important part in the control of prosthetic hands and those of robots, such as the WALKMAN humanoid robot. His PhD thesis was a finalist for the Georges Giralt PhD award 2015 - best European PhD in robotics.
"The IEEE RAS Early Career Award 2021 means a lot to me, not only because it deals with my current studies but because it is also related to the challenges that our society is facing to become more prosperous, in terms of productivity and workers' well-being and job satisfaction" - comments Arash Ajoudani. "I believe that industrial collaborative robots represent the future for factories, contributing to creating both agile manufacturing and safer workplaces."
The two projects supported by the European Union that Ajoudani is coordinating, ERGO-Lean and SOPHIA, are going straight on this direction.
ERGO-Lean Project was awarded an ERC-Starting Grant in 2019. The project studies the human ergonomics during complex human-robot-environment interactions, by investigating workers practices in the workplaces in order to anticipate and understand the effect of these actions in the short, middle and long term. The researchers' goal is to produce a collaborative robotics system capable of anticipating the human behaviour that will be able to intervene in order to help humans contributing to an ergonomic improvement of workplace conditions.
SOPHIA project has been funded by the European Union with 6.5 million euro in order to develop smart and socially interactive human-robot manufacturing systems. SOPHIA core intelligence will enable timely, natural, and human-in-command interactions between humans and robots on both social and physical levels, representing the new concept of socio-physical interaction. Additionally, the design and development of new wearable exoskeletons and collaborative robots with high payload and locomotion capacities are central to the mechatronics developments of the SOPHIA project. Furthermore, SOPHIA has a focus on standardization of its advanced technologies at a European level to ensure that its core technologies are "compliant by design" to standards in the field of human-robot interaction and collaboration.
Ajoudani contributes also to numerous technology transfer initiatives. The JOiiNT LAB, a joint laboratory resulting from the partnership between main innovation players in Bergamo, promoted by Intellimech a consortium of companies aiming at fostering technology transfer and creating a synergy between the world of research and industrial needs, Confindustria Bergamo, a free, non-profit association of companies that plays a representative role of the industrial and tertiary enterprises of Bergamo and its province, Kilometro Rosso Innovation District, one of the places with the highest density of innovation at European level and the University of Bergamo. Ajoudani's team will focus on the development of industry-ready controllers and interfaces for collaborative robots.