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Human Brain Project
The Brain Mind Institute at Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) is the only institute to have two projects in the final six, the first of which is its 'Human Brain Project' (HBP).
The proposed project would build an informatics, modelling and supercomputing infrastructure that would be capable of performing simulations of the human brain. According to the Commission, this would require research in high-performance computing and neuro-morphic computing — emulating brain circuitry — as well as brain-machine interfaces and robotics.
If it becomes one of the two winners, the EPFL would build a Facility for Brain Simulation, which would get to work on modelling the brain and running an internet-accessible 'simulation cockpit', allowing researchers from around the world to conduct virtual experiments and collaborate with one another.
Ultimately, the project aims to not only better understand the brain but to reuse some of its tricks in IT. After all, as the Commission notes, the human brain is "a very fast, massively parallel, distributed machine with negligible energy consumption (just 20-30W)", resilient to damage and very good at adaptation and prediction.
Photo credit: EPFL
Guardian Angels project
Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) has a second finalist in the running for the ultimate multi-million-euro prize: the Guardian Angels project.
The idea here is to develop "zero-power intelligent autonomous systems-of-systems" involving smart-sensor and control technologies that extract energy from their immediate environment. Such technologies are already used in everything from thermostats to car safety features, but they require something else to power them — if they could power themselves, the EPFL reckons, a whole new field of portable gadgets, wearable health monitors and critical safety technologies could emerge.
Ultimately, the researchers hope, such technologies could lead to autonomous 'guardian angel' systems that make people healthier and safer. To achieve this, the institute wants to create new low-energy nano-electronics and systems that can harvest solar and thermal energy, generating power using vibrations and electromagnetic waves.
The Italian Institute of Technology, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna (IIT@SSSA), has made it to the final six FET Flagship Pilots with its 'Robot companions for citizens' (RoboCom) project, which aims to create soft, gentle and friendly robots.
The RoboCom project would combine the expertise of scientists in the IT and robotics fields to build safe, interactive robot companions that would, according to the Commission, be "ubiquitous and user friendly, preserving or augmenting human capabilities and experience, extending the active, independent life of citizens, and maintaining our planet".
The bodies of these robots would require new artificial bio-materials or hybrid materials that use living tissue and have self-healing capabilities. The robots themselves would need to possess advanced social intelligence, which in turn requires new levels of cognitive modelling.
RoboCom would tie in with the Commission's aim of using technology to improve the lives of an ageing European population, while helping to further the robotics industry as a whole.
Photo credit: Josh Miller