I have always been passionate about robots and all the potential they have to offer. My bachelor’s degree was oriented towards electronics, automation and control, and right after finishing I applied to be selected for the first round of the European Master on Advanced Robotics (EMARO). I finished it in 2010 after one year in the École Centrale de Nantes (France), one in Politechnika Warszawska (Poland), and a short 2 month internship in Keio University (Japan). After a brief internship in DeustoTech (Spain) and a short contact with industry in TASS international (Germany), I moved towards the completion of my PhD, which I obtained in 2016 from the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain) in Belgium. Later on, I joined the Human-Robot Interfaces and Physical Interaction (HRII) laboratory of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), where I worked as a PostDoc for 4 years.

Currently, I work as Associate Professor in Assistive Robotics at the University of the West of England (UWE) . I am the Robotics Programme Cluster Coordinator for Open day, Offer holder day & Induction, as well as EDM (Engineering, Design and Mathematics department) representative for the Faculty of Environment, Technology RKE (Research and Knowledge Exchange) Research Culture Working Group, and the FET Business liaison associate with NHS.

My research is developed within the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), the most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK, where I lead the Assistive Robotics team (ARob team). I am also the Co-leader of the Robotics Engineering And Computing for Healthcare (REACH) research group.

Research

During my last year in EMARO I came in contact for the first time with the concepts of biomechanics and bio-inspired robots, which quickly raised my interest. Thus, I decided to carry on my master thesis on inverse dynamic analysis of human gait for robotics applications. Following the same line, my PhD thesis was devoted to the control of lower-limb exoskeletons by means of the bio-inspired concept of artificial motor primitives. This work took place within the framework of the EU project CYBERLEGs. Later on, as PostDoc at IIT I was involved in more industrial-oriented applications, researching under the EU project SOMA new bio-inspired grasping stiffness controls for robotic hands. In the last PostDoc year I moved to investigate the application of robotic grasping controls in multi-robot tele-impedance control frameworks and worked under the SOPHIA project. During my stay in UWE/BRL, I was involved in the UK Assuring Autonomy International Programme – Assistive Robotics in Healthcare project (AAIP) and the EU METRICS project. My current research encompasses several aspects of Assistive Robotics, being mostly focused on the development of novel control strategies for physically assistive robots to provide adaptive and customized assistance for users with different impairments. I am now focused on developing my Vice Chancellor’s Early Career Researcher Development project on: “Adaptive home robotic assistance for people with stroke using the CHIRON robot”.

My current research interests include grasping and manipulation, bio-inspired control, assistive robotics, and human-robot collaboration.

Publications

The complete list of my publications can be found at my Google Scholar profile

Projects

During my research I have worked under several European and UK projects:

CYBERLEGs (FP7-ICT-287894): The scientific and technological global goal of the CYBERLEGs project is the development of an artificial cognitive system for dysvascular trans-femoral amputees’ lower-limb functional replacement and assistance in activities of daily living. CYBERLEGs will be a robotic system constituted of an active cognitive artificial leg for the functional replacement of the amputated limb and a wearable active orthosis for assisting the contralateral sound limb. CYBERLEGs will allow the amputee to walk back and forward, go up and down stairs, and move from sit-to-stand and stand-to-sit with a minimum cognitive and energetic effort. The control system of CYBERLEGs will be based on motor primitives as fundamental buildings block, thus endowing CYBERLEGs with semiautonomous behaviour for planning the motion of the prosthesis joints and the assistive action of the orthosis module. CYBERLEGs will be capable of high-level cognitive skills, interfaced to the amputee through a bi-directional interaction.

SOMA (Grant Agreement No. 645599): Soft Manipulation (SOMA) is the key for the development of simple, compliant, yet strong, robust, and easy-to-program manipulation systems. SOMA explores a new avenue of robotic manipulation, exploiting the physical constraints imposed by the environment to enable robust grasping and manipulation in dynamic, open, and highly variable contexts.

SOPHIA (Grant Agreement No. 871237): SOPHIA – Socio-physical Interaction Skills for Cooperative Human-Robot Systems in Agile Production – aims to create a new generation of core robotic technologies for socially cooperative human-robot systems. The objectives are to achieve a reconfigurable and resource-efficient production and improve human comfort and trust in automation, in hybrid human-plus-robot manufacturing environments.

Ergo-Lean (ERC Starting Grant; Principal Investigator: Arash Ajoudani): Ergo-Lean aims to study human ergonomics during complex human-robot-environment interactions, and investigate methods to anticipate the effect of worker actions in the short, middle and long term. It explores the potential of collaborative robotics technology to deliver an original set of anticipatory behaviours that contribute to the improvement of human physical factors during interaction.

AAIP: Assistive robots have the potential to provide support for a range of care-related tasks such as physical and social assistance, physiotherapy and rehabilitation. As part of an Innovate UK funded project, CHIRON, the project team have developed a prototype modular overhead/ceiling robotic system that can provide physical and cognitive assistance to frail older adults. This demonstrator project is investigating and evaluating the safety, regulatory and requirements of close proximate human-robot interaction (HRI) in unstructured domestic environments. It is utilising the CHIRON robotic system within the European Robotics League Certified Anchor Assisted Living Studio at Bristol Robotics Laboratory

METRICS (Grant Agreement No. 871252): he METRICS project, led by the National Metrology and Testing Laboratory (LNE), will organize robotics competitions in four priority areas identified by the European Commission: health, agri-food, inspection and maintenance of infrastructure and agile production.

Editorial activity and Workshops

Invited talks

  • 26 Aug. 2022: Keynote on “Assistive Robots in unconstrained environments” UK-RAS Conference, Aberystwyth University, Wales, U.K
  • 16 June 2022: “Assistive Robots’ Taxonomy : a system-based classification” NNUF Hot Robotics Symposium, Bristol, U.K.
  • 10 Sep. 2021: “Robots de asistencia: de exoesqueletos a robots sociales” 2nd National Symposium on Bioengineering and Artificial Intelligence (SINABIA 2021)Instituto Tecnológico de Mérida, México (Virtual).
  • 12 March 2021: “Robots de asistencia: de exoesqueletos a robots sociales”, AAAIMX Women’s MonthInstituto Tecnológico de Mérida, México (Virtual).

Education

  • Feb. 2012 – June 2016 Doctorate of Engineering Sciences, Center for Research in Energy and Mechatronics (CEREM), Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Belgium. Thesis subject: “Bio-inspired motor primitives for controlling leg exoskeletons”.
  • Sep. 2008 – June 2010 EMARO (European Master in Advanced Robotics), Ecole Centrale de Nantes, France /Politechnika Warszawska, Poland. Subject of master thesis: “Inverse dynamic analysis of human gait – Investigation for robotics application”.
  • Sep. 2006 – Sep. 2008 Engineering in Automation and Electronics, Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería, Spain. Subject of final project: “Prototype of mobile servicerobot for aiding people with restricted mobility”.
  • Sep. 2002 – Dec. 2005 Industrial Technical Engineering specialized in Industrial Electronics, Escuela Universitaria de Ingeniería Técnica Industrial, Spain.

Teaching

University courses

  • 2020/2021: “Assistive Robotics” (UWE and UoB)
    • Level: Master
    • Practical lessons with the Pepper robot (11 groups of ~ 4-6 students)
    • Organizing 2 lecture sessions  (~60 students) on : “Physically Assistive Robotics. Rehabilitation Robotics, Prosthetics and Exoskeletons”, and “Bio-inspiration for (assistive) robotics”.
    • Leading and assisting seminars (2 groups of ~30 students). 
    • Marking and feedback reports. 
    • Language: English
  • 2020/2021: “AI and Computer Vision, Application in Healthcare” (UWE)
    • Level: Master
    • One lecture sessions on “Robotics in healthcare AI: an introduction”.
    • Language: English
  • 2014/2015: “LFSAB1501 Project 1” (UCL).
    • Level: First year undergraduate
    • Guide students during the construction and programming of their first Lego robot (8-10 groups of ~ 5-6 students each).
    • Marking and feedback reports. 
    • Language: French.
  • 2014/2015: “LMECA2732: Introduction to robotics, Laboratoire NAO” (UCL).
    • Level: Master
    • Guide laboratory groups on their first approach to programming robot NAO (~ 10 groups of 2 students each).
    • Language: English.

Invited lectures

  • 24/05/2022: Invited lecture to the students of Industrial Automation & Robotics on “Assistive Robotics: an introduction” within the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The National Institute of Engineering, Mysuru, India
  • 02/05/2022: Virginia Ruiz Garate gave an invited lecture to the Università degli Studi di Perugia on “Assistive Robotics: an introduction” within the Msc “Ingegneria Informatica e Robotica” module “Tecnologie per sistemi robotici”
  • 29/03/2022: Invited lecture within the Msc “BioRobotics” module “Biosystems and Biorobotics” of University of Bristol on “Bio-inspiration for assistive robots”
  • 02/03/2022 Invited lecture to the Università degli Studi di Perugia on “Assistive Robotics: an introduction” within the Msc “Ingegneria Informatica e Robotica” module “Tecnologie per sistemi robotici”

Supervision

PhD thesis

  • 09/2021-Present (UWE): Director of Studies of Emanuel Nunez Sardinha. PhD Research Proposal: The Pupil System: Augmented Reality System for Gaze-control of Devices for Tetraplegia Gaze-Controlled.
  • 2019/2020 (IIT): co-supervisor on PhD final thesis: Research on shared-teleoperation for control of mobile manipulators. 

Master students

  • 06-09/2021 (UWE) Master thesis from the MSc in Robotics. Title proposals:
    • Intelligent data-fusion for indoor localization for assistive robots.
    • Intelligent Data Fusion to support real-time accessible feedback for shared autonomy in wheelchairs.
    • Multimodal interaction with a social robot using biofeedback to support therapy.
    • Intelligent Motion Sensing to aid Stroke Rehabilitation.
  • 06-09/2021 (UWE) Master thesis from the MSc in Health Technology. Title proposals:
    • Stroke Rehabilitation: A Literature Review.
    • Stroke rehabilitation and recovery using functional and exercise-related activity.
  • 2018 (IIT): Supervision of Master final project: Study brain interfaces to decode user intention for robotic grasping control.

Internships

  • Sep-Dec 2021 (UWE): Supervise part-time student on the study of “Support for CHIRON assistance on sit-to-stand and stand-to-sit manoeuvres
  • June-July 2021 (UWE): Co-Supervise 3 summer interns working on the topics of Biomechanical Analysis and Machine Learning for data obtained from physically assistive robots. 

Honours and awards

  • 2022-2024 Project lead for UWE (£227,126) as partner of the collaborative Fitbees Project (£1,843,330 awarded under the Innovate UK Competition: Healthy Ageing Challenge – Designed for Ageing)
  • 2022-2023 Vice Chancellor’s Challenge Fund for 2022-23. £24.960 award to co-lead a project on “ 4D printing of soft hands for smart actuation and sensing of robotic prosthetic hands” and £24,426.50 to co-lead a project on “Enhancing self-directed arm exercise practice using GripAble gaming device integrated with wearable (accelerometer and Lycra arm Sleeve) technologies in chronic stroke survivors”
  • 2021-2022: Vice Chancellor’s Early Career Researcher Development Award for 2021-22. £14.910 award to develop a study on: “Adaptive home robotic assistance for people with stroke using the CHIRON robot”.
  • 2020: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Seal of Excellence on the H2020-MSCA-IF-2020 call – Certificate delivered by the European Commission.
  • 2009-2010: Basque Country scholarship to carry studies of specialization in a foreign country. Awarded during the EMARO master for the interest and relevance of the carried studies for the Basque Country.
  • 2007-2008: Basque Country collaboration scholarship to develop studies under the Automatic Control and Systems Engineering laboratory of the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería, Spain.

Media

2022 IoT podcast interview for the International Women in Engineering Day (link)

2022 Telepresence teaching in Higher Education as Reasonable adjustment pilot project (link)

2022 NHS hospital uses robot technology (BBC)

2021 Bristol robotics Laboratory (BRL/UWE) presentation for the UK Festival of Robotics.

2020 “Redazione IIT OPENTALK“: presentation of my work to the community through the IIT media.

2018 “Vita da Ricercatore“: appearance in one programme devoted to the discovery of reserachers’ lives. I briefly introduce the SOMA project.

Download CV

Contact

e-mail: virginia.ruizgarate (at) uwe.ac.uk

Bristol Robotics Laboratory,
Campus, T Block, University of the West of England,Frenchay,
Coldharbour Ln, Bristol
BS34 8QZ