Science fiction comes to life in Italian lab
Once the preserve of science fiction, increasingly sophisticated robotic devices are vying for a place side by side with humans in the real world.
At Italy's Sant'Anna university, a bionic arm commanded by the human brain or a limb extension that allows rescuers to lift rubble after earthquakes are just some of the futuristic innovations in the pipeline.
"The idea is to get robots out of factories where they have shown their worth and to transform them into household machines which can live together with humans," says Professor Paolo Dario, director of the college's bio-robotics department.
The university in the historic town of Pisa in Tuscany is a veritable factory of ideas.
Researchers here are working on projects ranging from a robot that can come to your door to collect your recycling to tomatoes that slow the effects of ageing and plants that survive underwater to help flood-prone regions of the world.
"You can innovate here. Whoever has a project gets help, ideas are not blocked. We are investing in individuals," the rector of Sant'Anna, Maria Chiara Carrozza, a professor of bio-robotics said in an interview.
The dustcart looks like the famous R2-D2 from Star Wars with its laser scanner and location sensors. The idea is that it can work through phone bookings to come to your street at a fixed time to collect your waste.
"We tested it for two months with 15 families living in one of the towns near here. Everything worked well but there are still some problems to sort out," said Pericle Salvini, a member of the team behind the project.(AFP)