The University of Siena in Siena, Tuscany is one of the oldest and first publicly funded universities in Italy. Originally called Studium Senese, the institution was founded in 1240. It had around 20,000 students in 2006, nearly half of Siena's total population of around 54,000. Today, the University of Siena is best known for its Schools of Law and Medicine. Wikipedia.
News Article | April 25, 2017
Less than a year ago, augmented reality—digital effects laid on top of the real world as seen through a computer screen—burst into public consciousness with the release of the mobile game Pokémon GO, in which players see magical little monsters in the real world using their smartphones. Now, a team of engineers has done them one better: With finger-worn devices, users can “feel” virtual objects around them while still maintaining the ability to grasp other—actual—objects. The new technology could upgrade everything from video games to ecommerce to neurosurgery. More than 100 million people have experienced augmented reality through Pokémon GO, and tech giants including Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook are investing in it. But so far, augmented reality and its sibling, the fully immersive virtual reality, have an obvious limitation: You can see and hear virtual objects, but you can’t touch or feel them. Over the years, engineers have constructed gloves with motors or electrodes designed to provide tactile, or “haptic,” feedback. But because most cover the fingertips, users have to remove them before they can feel a real object. Devices that leave the fingertips free don’t give the fingers much feedback, or consist of ungainly exoskeletons on the backs of the hands. So Domenico Prattichizzo, a robotics engineer at the University of Siena in Italy, and his collaborators designed two devices that enable users to feel virtual objects, which they put to the test in a paper to be published in . One fits over the fingertip, like a chunky thimble. It has a thin plate controlled by three tiny motors that presses against the finger pad. The plate is thin enough to let users pick up real objects, but substantial enough to make them think they are touching real objects—even when none is there. The other is a ring worn high on the finger that uses tiny motors to stretch the skin under the ring. When the stretching, inches from the fingertip, combines with visual feedback, the brain essentially fools itself and transfers the sensation to the tip. Participants tested the devices with three tasks. In the first, they held a real piece of chalk and wrote the word “CIAO” (goodbye) on a virtual whiteboard, which they saw through a computer screen. When the chalk touched the virtual board, it left a mark, which turned from blue to red as the subject pressed harder. Participants wore thimbles, rings, or nothing on the thumb and index finger. Compared with bare fingers, the haptic devices each reduced people’s tracing error by about 75%. Participants also reported the thimble and ring gave them better control of the chalk. In additional trials, the only device to do better was a stylus controlled by mechanical arms that can’t be worn. In the second task, people placed two virtual blocks on top of two real blocks, which they then picked up and moved. Participants were about 30% faster with the haptic devices than without. In the third task, they held a real square of cardboard and rolled a virtual ball on it toward several targets. Participants hit more targets in 45 second with haptic feedback—which simulated the weight of the ball rolling on the cardboard—than without it. In this final task, the thimble was slightly better than the ring. Prattichizzo’s lab has led “a revolution in the topic of virtual touch,” says Miguel Otaduy, a computer scientist at Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid. He’s tried Prattichizzo’s devices and is impressed that you can wear them and still hold real objects. “That just blows your mind,” he says. Samuel Schorr, a mechanical engineer at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who studies haptics in virtual reality, praises the work for comparing different types of devices using different types of tasks. Otaduy notes several possible applications. In medicine, a surgeon might be able to perform remote operations beyond the simple use of a scalpel, or train for tumor screening by feeling for virtual lumps in real tissue. In telecommunications, people could share touch over the internet. Sensing could also be remote in time: You might record the visual, audio, and tactile sensations of playing with your child, for example, to play back later. Prattichizzo hopes to add vibrations to his wearable devices to simulate texture. He’s also developing armbands to provide haptic feedback when lifting heavy virtual objects. Some of these ideas may soon come to market through his new company, WEART: “My goal is that we should be able to switch from real to virtual reality in a snap.”
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: SC1-PM-22-2016 | Award Amount: 15.59M | Year: 2016
ZIKAlliance is a multidisciplinary project with a global One Health approach, built: on a multi-centric network of clinical cohorts in the Caribbean, Central & South America; research sites in countries where the virus has been or is currently circulating (Africa, Asia, Polynesia) or at risk for emergence (Reunion Island); a strong network of European and Brazilian clinical & basic research institutions; and multiple interfaces with other scientific and public health programmes. ZIKAlliance will addrees three key objectives relating to (i) impact of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy and short & medium term effects on newborns, (ii) associated natural history of ZIKV infection in humans and their environment in the context of other circulating arboviruses and (iii) building the overall capacity for preparedness research for future epidemic threats in Latin America & the Caribbean. The project will take advantage of large standardised clinical cohorts of pregnant women and febrile patients in regions of Latin America and the Caribbean were the virus is circulating, expanding a preexisting network established by the IDAMS EU project. I will also benefit of a very strong expertise in basic and environmental sciences, with access to both field work and sophisticated technological infrastructures to characterise virus replication and physiopathology mechanisms. To meet its 3 key objectives, the scientific project has been organised in 9 work packages, with WP2/3 dedicated to clinical research (cohorts, clinical biology, epidemiology & modeling), WP3/4 to basic research (virology & antivirals, pathophysiology & animal models), WP5/6 to environmental research (animal reservoirs, vectors & vector control) , WP7/8 to social sciences & communication, and WP9 to management. The broad consortium set-up allow gathering the necessary expertise for an actual interdisciplinary approach, and operating in a range of countries with contrasting ZIKV epidemiological status.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: REV-INEQUAL-07-2016 | Award Amount: 5.00M | Year: 2017
IMAJINE aims to formulate new integrative policy mechanisms to enable European, national and regional government agencies to more effectively address territorial inequalities within the European Union. It responds to evidence that spatial inequalities within the EU are increasing, contrary to the principle of territorial cohesion embedded as a third dimension of the European Social Model in the Treaty of Lisbon, and is particularly timely in examining the geographically differentiated impacts of the post-2008 economic crisis and the adoption of austerity policies. IMAJINE uniquely proposes to address the problem of territorial inequalities through an inter-disciplinary and multi-scalar approach that integrates perspectives from economics, human geography, political science and sociology and combines macro-scale econometric analysis and the generation and analysis of new quantitative survey data with regionally-focused qualitative empirical case study research in 11 EU member states; delivered by a multi-disciplinary and multi-national consortium. As such the research builds on the conceptual and methodological state of the art in several disciplines and advances conceptual understanding and the empirical knowledge base by producing new primary data, applying new analytical tests to secondary data and integrating the results along with insights from relational geographical theory and the concept of spatial justice. In particular, the centrality of spatial justice emphasizes the political as well as economic dimensions of territorial inequalities, and IMAJINE will move beyond existing knowledge by considering relationships between measured and perceived inequalities, models of multi-level policy-making and public service delivery, and support for territorial autonomy movements. IMAJINE will further translate these scientific insights into policy applications through participatory scenario building exercises with governance and civil society stakeholders.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: CSA | Phase: FETOPEN-02-2016 | Award Amount: 670.00K | Year: 2017
This FET-open Coordination and Support Action is called Nanoarchitectronics (NTX) to denote a new interdisciplinary research area at the crossroad of Electromagnetics and Nanoelectronics. NTX It is a new technology aimed at conceiving, designing and developing reconfigurable, adaptive and cognitive structures, sensorial surfaces and functional skins with unique physical properties, and engineering applications in the whole electromagnetic spectrum; through assembling building blocks at nanoscale in hierarchical architectures. The conception of this new area responds to the need of unifying concepts, methodologies and technologies in Communications, Environment Sensing Systems, Safety and Security, Bio-Sensing Systems and Imaging Nanosystems, within a wide frequency range. This FET project proposal gathers thirteen universities, research centers and high-tech industries, belonging to eight European countries. According to the FET work-program, the major objective of Nanoarchitectronics is to boost the future application-driven research through the establishment of an accepted language among physicists and engineers, a shared way of thinking, a common theoretical foundation and a common strategy for the future. Therefore, the project aims at laying the foundation for an ever-increasing synergy and progress of Nanoarchitectronics. To achieve these objectives, Nanoarchitectronics is structured in four main activities. The Concept activity is devoted to establish and define the concepts of Nanoarchitectronics and its boundaries with respect to other disciplines and to the activity carried out by other consortia. The Strategy activity identifies the policy dialogue and the strategic view of the consortium in terms of position, impact and vision. The Virtual Networking serves to internal web communication (private), and for dissemination (public). The Dissemination and Exploitation activity is carried out mainly by the industrial partners of the consortium
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: WATER-5c-2015 | Award Amount: 2.99M | Year: 2016
FLOWERED objective is to contribute to the development of a sustainable water management system in areas affected by fluoride (F) contamination in water, soils and food in the African Rift Valley countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania), thus to improve living standards (environmental, health and food security) of its population. FLOWERED aims to study, test and implement innovative defluoridation technologies for drinking and irrigation water that will mainly operate at small village scale and to develop an integrated, sustainable and participative water and agriculture management at a cross-boundary catchment scale. On the basis of the complexity of the issue of water de-fluoridation, the proposed scientific approach in FLOWERED is based on a detailed knowledge of the geological and hydrogeological setting that controls contamination of water that constitute the prerequisite for the implementation of a sustainable water management and for the proposal of sustainable and suitable strategies for water sanitation and agricultural system. Innovative agricultural practices will be assessed, aiming to mitigate the impacts of F contamination of water and soil on productivity of selected food and forage crops and dairy cattle health and production. The development of an innovative and shared Geo-data system will support the integrated, sustainable and participative management system. FLOWERED, focusing on innovative technologies and practices and taking into account local experiences, will implement an integrated water and agriculture management system and will enable local communities to manage water resources, starting from using efficient defluoridation techniques and applying sustainable agricultural practices. The integrated approaches improve knowledge for EU partners, local researchers, farmers and decision makers. The Project through the involvement of SMEs will strengthen the development co-innovative demonstration processes as well as new market opportunities.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: CSA | Phase: SC5-12-2016 | Award Amount: 2.00M | Year: 2016
The 4PRIMA Coordination and Support Action will create the bases and will develop a set of activities aimed at supporting the establishment of a long-term, well-structured and integrated partnership for research and innovation (R&I) on food systems and water resources, among countries from both sides of the Mediterranean Sea (PRIMA Initiative). In order to enable a sustainable development in this area, 4PRIMA will facilitate the establishment of favourable and stable conditions for a reinforced international cooperation on food systems and water research, based on a better coordination, collective ownership of R&I programmes and, consequently, clear and tangible mutual benefits. 4PRIMA will develop a Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) and an associated implementation plan, as a result of an extensive participatory process that will target a critical mass of key players at international level and all relevant stakeholders of the food and water sectors. To achieve this main objective, 4PRIMA will take advantage of a wide portfolio of results and relationship generated in previous and on-going EU projects, as well as it will seek cooperation between EU and Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs), in coherence with the activities of the Strategic Forum for International Cooperation. Given the strategic relevance of an appropriate development and uptake of the SRIA to establish a long lasting partnership in the region, 4PRIMA science diplomacy actions will be essential to ensure the support to R&I policy dialogue addressing sensitive challenges between EU and MPCs. Moreover, in order to maximise its expected impact, 4PRIMA project will explore avenues for awareness raising and development of strategic alliances with key stakeholders, including EU, AC and MPCs countries that did not take part to the PRIMA joint programming process, with the goal to enlarge the participation to the PRIMA Initiative.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-SoU | Phase: ENERGY.2013.8.8.1 | Award Amount: 42.87M | Year: 2014
City-zen deals with the development of the city of the future. The project has three major goals, 1- to realize more effective collaboration models and a methodology for development of smart cities, 2- to connect with industry, and have them develop technology to the benefit of smart cities and 3- to showcase to society ambitious pilot projects. Main idea for this project is that after successful implementations in topics such as district heating, energy grids, local energy generation, energy efficiency for housing, now it is time for the next big step: integrated flexible open infrastructures. The approach taken is the set-up of stakeholder teams in the demonstrator cities, to accelerate the realization of energy-efficient city development. This effort is supported by technology teams including industrial parties. Workshops aiming at decreasing the gap between innovation and implementation will be organized and knowledge-disclosing material will be developed by specialized working groups in retrofitting, smart grids, and heating and cooling. This approach holds for both technology and process improvement. The demonstrators in Amsterdam and Grenoble include retrofitting 105000 m2 of housing to levels down to 53 kWh/m2, showing average savings of the order of 80%. Furthermore they include fully-functional smart grid development, electricity storage demonstrators, free cooling schemes and district heating efficiency improvements. The City-zen project recognizes the key position of citizens, so ample attention is paid to dissemination and education of this group. Serious gaming is included as part of the work, as well as a roadshow bringing the results of the project right at the doorsteps of decision makers in other cities. Extensive monitoring of all buildings and installations is included. All demonstrators together have an estimated impact of 59000 tonne/year CO2 reduction. Amsterdam and Grenoble CO2 reduction goals for 2050 are 80% reduction.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: ICT-24-2015 | Award Amount: 8.68M | Year: 2016
Although much has been done for developing technologies to bear upon problems of individuals with sensorimotor impairments, the impact of robotic aids on people with real needs in the real world is still very limited. Our main goal is to increase the cumulative benefits of assistive robotic technologies to society by enhancing their effectiveness AND the number of beneficiaries. The challenge is to increase both multipliers in the performance times accessibility product, subverting the traditional situation where one factor can only be increased at the expense of the other. We believe this is possible by investigating how the artificial can physically interact and effectively talk to the natural. Understanding such a language is crucial not only to improve performance of rehab technology, but also to tackle the most difficult problem of making it simple enough to be effective and accessible. We possess good clues about such a language, whose words we believe are sensorimotor synergies, and have the scientific competence to further its understanding and the technological prowess to translate it into a new generation of robotic assistive devices. We know that a central ingredient for the applicability of synergy-based models to physical human-machine interaction is impedance adaptability, i.e. soft robotics technologies. We will develop soft synergy-based robotics technologies to produce new prostheses, exoskeletons, and assistive devices for upper limb rehabilitation. Building on solid methodological bases, this project will have a significant social impact in promoting advanced robot prosthetic and assistive technology, while introducing disruptively new, admittedly risky, but potentially high-impact ideas and paradigms, such as the proposed pioneering work on supernumerary limbs for assistance and rehabilitation to motor impairments of the upper limb.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: MSCA-ITN-ETN | Phase: MSCA-ITN-2015-ETN | Award Amount: 3.34M | Year: 2016
The goal of the TASPPI European Training Network (ETN) is the establishment of a highly interdisciplinary research and educational training platform for early stage scientists in the Chemical Life Sciences to overcome the inherent boundaries between academia and industry and to increase their employability in both areas. To this end we have teamed up in a consortium comprising 5 partners from industry (AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, UCB, Lead Disocvery Center, Taros Chemicals) and 6 partners from academia (Universities of Dundee, Eindhoven, Leeds, Lille, Prague, and Siena). The scientific objective of the multi-sectorial Training Network is the development and implementation of a multidisciplinary technology platform bringing together structural molecular biology, chemical biology, cell biology, synthetic chemistry, and medicinal chemistry for the identification of Small-molecule Stabilizers of Protein-Protein Interactions (PPIs) as a novel class of therapeutic agents and basic research tool compounds. With this new technological approach we aim to address a number of unmet medical needs in the areas Cancer, Neurodegenerative Diseases (Alzheimers, Parkinsons), Pulmonary Diseases, Inflammation and Metabolic Diseases (Diabetes).
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: MSCA-ITN-ETN | Phase: MSCA-ITN-2016 | Award Amount: 2.88M | Year: 2016
The European community requires early stage researchers (ESRs) trained in next-generation technologies for improved detection and treatment of oral and oesophageal cancers. The number of oral cancers diagnosed in the EU has increased by over 75% in the last 30 years, with long-term survival rates of only 50%. This is typically due to the late diagnosis of the disease and resistance to current therapies. Through the collaborative expertise of clinicians, biochemists, immunologists, and chemists TRACT will enable ESRs to discover novel insights into the molecular and cellular basis of these cancers and generate new diagnostic tools and therapeutics that improve patient response and survival. Each Institution brings unique but complementary expertise in cancer metabolism, metabolomics, high-resolution imaging, biomarker identification, computational modelling, medicinal chemistry, target validation, drug development and translational medicine. Industrial placements in five European countries will ensure ESRs receive specialised training in the development of next-generation technologies in such areas as whole genome sequencing, CRISPR technology, drug screening, exosome isolation and analysis, cancer imaging, metabolism and metabolite analysis in addition to the unique employment experience of working in the private sector. Courses in commercialisation, project management and presentation skills will ensure ESRs will have the ability to present their results to the entire cross-section of the European community, through public engagement. TRACT will deliver a cohort of internationally mobile cancer researchers with interdisciplinary skills who will have enhanced career prospects and be in a position to have an impact on the European and global research stage by providing new technologies that can drive entrepreneurship into the European economy and improved diagnostics and treatment options for cancer patients in Europe and beyond.