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ESMERA Monthly, September 2021 Edition

Welcome to your monthly update on European SME’s robotics innovation. We would appreciate any feedback, please send your comments via e-mail to
esmera-news@lms.mech.upatras.gr.

Who we are

ESMERA is a starting point for European SMEs in designing and developing robotic solutions, providing mentorship, networking and funding.
Key European companies have defined industry challenges in two open calls. A total of 32 experiments have been funded which address those challenges. The teams are supported by the ESMERA consortium, made up of four leading competence centers and three successful facilitators acting as mentors.
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ESMERA on IROS

ESMERA will be hosting a workshop featuring some of the most innovative robotics SMEs in Europe. The workshop will consist of a series of targeted presentations from selected experiments participating in ESMERA, which will be available online. The online live session of the workshop will take place on September 27th 2021 from 14:00 to 16:00 CET. ESMERA will also have a virtual stand at the IROS exhibition from September 27th to October 1st. Find the detailed program here.

ESMERA Second Open Call for Experiments (SOCE)

While ESMERA First Open Call for Experiments (ESMERA-FOCE) covered only four challenge areas, the Second Open Call (ESMERA-SOCE) targets eight sectors: agriculture, construction, emergency response, energy, food processing, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail. 20 experiments had started their Phase I in May 2020 and completed it in March 2021 (more information here). 10 experiments from the ESMERA-SOCE were selected to continue into Phase II. This issue covers the selected experiments from the healthcare and retail sectors, NeRo and SA3IR. Happy reading!

NeRo

The use of robotic systems to aid in surgical procedures has greatly increased over the past decade. Fields such as general surgery, urology, and gynecology have widely adopted robotic surgery as part of everyday practice. The use of robotic systems in the field of spine surgery has recently begun to be explored. Spinal fusion is one of these surgeries and it joins two or more vertebrae to prevent any relative movement between the fused bodies. It is a very complex and risky procedure as it requires inserting pedicle screws that are fixed with a rod into the targeted vertebrae. According to studies, when the intervention is performed freehand there is a risk of malposition with the inserted screws up to 15%, and 4.2% risk of re-intervention in the cases due to neurological damage.
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Visual 1: Cyber Surgery Team
Cyber Surgery’s NeRo is a robotic assistant which enables to shift from free-hand to minimally invasive surgery (MIS) with a safer, and more accurate surgical robot for pedicle screw insertions. The novelty of the solution proposed by the project resides in the patient tracking system which is based on an innovative and patented mechanical system unlike its counterparts in the market which address the tracking problem using optical systems. The project is focusing on the design and development work to adapt the robotic system to address interventions derived by scoliosis damages without sacrificing the accuracy of the overall solution.

SA3IR

According to a recent survey, the advent of COVID-19 severely hastened the deployment timeline for robotic technologies in the retail sector and signals an increasing presence in the marketplace subsequent to the pandemic. The sector demands solutions which can perform repetitive, manual functions in a safe, cost-effective way and also scale to meet the needs of both large and small retailers.
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Visual 1: SA3IR
The SA3IR is the design and development of the whole framework needed to endow a fleet of small autonomous low lift pallet trucks with runtime adaptation capabilities to cope with the changes in warehouses. The SA3IR allows employees to call one of these vehicles (e.g. with a smartphone or a tablet) by simply selecting the picking place where the cart is needed. Then, the system chooses the truck and directs it to go to the required position.The system uses a flexible decision making process which steers the most appropriate truck to the request for assuring efficiency in the warehouse operations.
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Visual 2: NeRo
The main developments offered by NeRo are as follows:
Higher Accuracy: The proposed mechanical tracking system can reach about 50 μm, whereas, current optical solutions have an accuracy of about 200-300 μm. The solution is at least four times more accurate which allows it to operate on more critical areas of the spine such as thoracic and cervical.
Less Operation Costs: The calibration of the system at the beginning of the surgery is almost instantaneous compared to optical systems where each instrument must be calibrated with respect to the cameras.
Safety and Robustness: robotic assistants based on optical tracking systems require a device that carries at least two cameras that reduce the already packed operating room area further. Moreover, systems based on cameras must deal with potential occlusions which aggravate the doings of the surgeon. The developed mechanical tracking system is a device of reduced dimensions that is held by the robot itself on its end-effector which drastically reduces the occlusion risks and makes the intervention safer.

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Visual 2: SA3IR on Duty
Besides, the trucks operate with harmony when encountering a crowded environment thanks to their state of art sensor systems that ensure safety along with precision and continuity. The flexible decision making process determines the vehicles to each employee request based on the instant factors such as truck availability, distance (and occupancy of the paths) to the target, battery level.

The framework includes information that is local to each truck (e.g. battery level or laser readings), but also global information coming from the SA3IR Database, managed within an external server. The external server receives the requests from the human employees and is connected to the order management system, where the online purchases from the customers are managed. Additionally, the software components of the framework are addressing the functionalities such as person/cart detection. Last but not least, there is also a component that is responsible for determining the deliberative course of action using automatic planning.

ESMERA Spotlight Interview Series

ESMERA Spotlight interview series continue with new insightful sessions in September. Stay tuned to learn more about developments and experiences of
SA3IR from Prof. Antonio Bandera and
SUSPICION from MSc. Titanilla Komenda.
Find video interviews soon on our ESMERA Youtube, LinkedIn and Twitter pages.
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