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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
IT Future of Medicine project
The Department of Vertebrate Genomics at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics also hopes to become one of the two ultimate winners, with its 'IT Future of Medicine' (ITFoM) project.
Unlike, for example, nuclear research at Cern, medicine has so far played a limited role in advancing research and development. The institute hopes the ITFoM scheme will change that. As the health sector moves towards highly individualised medicines that require huge amounts of data analysis and modelling, ITFoM would develop new workflows and IT architectures to cope with the zetabytes of data this will involve.
According to the Commission, ITFoM would create new procedures for data integration and access, as well as new techniques for handling massive data files — a single human genome represents around 6GB of data.
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