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Frank Sup Gives Presentation at Robotics Summit

Frank Sup

Frank Sup

On November 5, Professor Frank Sup of the UMass Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department was one of 10 presenters at “The Future of Robotics: Research to Commercialization” event, as hosted by MassRobotics and the Mass Tech Collaborative. Sup highlighted his lab’s research, as well as his collaborative work with MIE Professor Meghan Huber and Professor Rod Grupen of the College of Information and Computer Sciences on assisting people through physical human-robot interaction.

According to Fox, the November 5 event brought together a world-class team of robotics researchers and industry veterans from Massachusetts to discuss ongoing initiatives and their impact on the commercial robotics sector. Sup was one of these notable researchers featured at the event.

Sup presented his lab’s simulation-based design approach that uses predictive models of walking to optimize the design of wearable devices such as prostheses and exoskeletons. He discussed a prototype wearable robotic prostheses emulator powered by a backpack unit containing the motors and electronics.

As Sup explained, “The backpack unit enables prototype evaluations without the need for custom electronics for each design, allowing for fast iteration of the solutions produced by the simulation results.”

Sup added that “To help decrease the pain experienced for those with osteoarthritis, an intelligent clutch-based elastic knee exoskeleton has been designed to reduce knee contact forces. The brace captures energy when the knee bends and then stores it in an elastic element while the knee is free to move.”

As an example of how the exoskeleton works while transitioning between standing and sitting, Sup said that the brace stores energy while sitting down, switches modes to allow the knee to freely move while seated, then, to stand up, the mode switches to use the stored energy and allow the wearer to stand up with assistance.

Sup also highlighted his collaborative work with Huber “focused on optimizing human-robot interaction through observation of interaction for robots to understand how people move through physical models of a person.”

In addition, Sup said, a collaborative project with Grupen resulted in the development of uBot-7, a two-wheeled balancing robot with a humanoid upper body with series elastic elements in the joints to enable dexterous whole-body manipulation and physical contact with people.

As the Fox report explained, “The $100+ billion-dollar global robotics sector is growing by leaps and bounds. Industrial robots are no longer the exclusive domain of large factories. A new generation of robotics systems are bringing value to industries such as agriculture, healthcare, and warehousing, and becoming more prevalent in the home.”

According to the Fox report, this session included a series of rapid-fire presentations and demonstrations designed to give attendees insight into a variety of areas of robotics research, ranging across the robotics landscape from autonomous vehicles to autonomous surgery and everything in between.

"The overall adoption of robotics has not only accelerated in the last several years but has become a major focus of innovation in many commercial sectors," said Tom Ryden, the executive director of MassRobotics. "We are seeing research and development increase throughout Massachusetts institutions and companies. These forward-thinking leaders are showing what's possible within robotics."

The event was targeted at engineers, entrepreneurs, university students, and industry professionals who are interested in technologies that could be commercialized in five to 10 years. (December 2020)