Genova 19 Gennaio, 1997

Strategic Workshop on Future Challenges in Bionics
Brussels, May 4, 1998
Summary Report
Giulio Sandini
DIST - University of Genova
The focus of a proactive initiative in bionics is on "implanted or portable systems for
monitoring and closed-loop regulation of body functions and dis-functions".
Two main long term application areas were pointed out as particularly interesting: health
maintenance and capability enhancement. Within the first area devices monitoring
physiological variables (chemical, metabolic, electrical, etc.) to predict the occurrence of
pathological situations (such as strokes or epileptic seizures) and to prevent the
occurrence of the acute phase (also by delivering drugs) will be studied. Within the
second area devices extending the sensory, motor, and cognitive abilities of humans
outside their physiological ranges will be studied. For example ultrasonic hearing,
perception of light polarization, mapping extra-sensorial data (e.g. chemical
concentration, radiations) into sensable quantities.
Trans-disciplinary long-term research is fundamental, covering biology, technology and
engineering and aiming, among other things, at building a pan-European scientific and
industrial community. Basic technologies are, for example, neural interfaces (for
including micromechanical, electrical and processing aspects, energy
production (e.g. from body heat and/or motion), biocompatible materials, cellular and
molecular biology, computational neuroscience.
The focus of the initiative, within the time span of the fifth framework, will be both on
devices directly and physically connected (e.g. through implanted electrodes) to
biological systems (non-humans), and on integrated portable devices (the size of a
cellular phone) interfaced in a non invasive way to humans.
The peculiarity of the bionics initiative as application-driven technology pusher is the
implicit constraints in terms of size, cost, energy consumption, ergonomics. New
technology is mandatory and any success will have to pass through developments in
strategic areas which have far broader applications (e.g. micromechanics,
microelectronics, next generation man-machine interface etc.).
The peculiarity of the initiative in terms of social impact derives directly from the central
role of "man", and particularly the improvement of diagnostic/therapeutic technology and
the extension of sensorial and motor capabilities also for disabled persons.
Summary Report on Bionics Workshop