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Nikolaos Tsagarakis

Senior Researcher Tenured - Principal Investigator
Humanoids and Human Centered Mechatronics Research Line

Research Line

Humanoids & Human Centered Mechatronics


IIT Central Research Labs Genova


Humanoids and Human Centered Mechatronics , Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, via Morego 30
+39 010 2896 428
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Nikos Tsagarakis is Tenured Senior Scientist and Principal Investigator of the Humanoid design & Human Centred Mechatronics (HHCM) Research Line, a leading research laboratory at IIT with strong expertise in robot design, modelling and control, and in the development of new mechatronics components (actuation and sensing). HHCM is the home laboratory where the compliant humanoids COMAN and WALK-MAN and the CENTAURO hybrid wheeled-legged quadrupedal manipulation platform were developed. Nikos Tsagarakis was the coordinator of EU project WALKMAN and has served as principal investigator for several EU projects in the past including VIACTORS, SAPHARI, AMARSI, WEARHAP and most recently for CogiMON, CENTAURO and EUROBENCH.

He is an author or co-author of over 350 papers in research journals and at international conferences and holds 16 patents. He has received the Best Jubilee Video Award at IROS (2012), the 2009 PE Publishing Award from the Journal of Systems and Control Engineering and prizes for Best Paper at ICAR (2003) and the Best Student Paper Award at Robio (2013). He was also a finalist for Best Entertainment Robots and Systems - 20th Anniversary Award at IROS (2007) and finalist for the Best Manipulation paper at ICRA (2012), the Best Conference Paper at Humanoids (2012), the Best Student Papers at Robio (2013) and ICINCO (2014), Best Interactive Paper finalist at Humanoids (2016) and Best Interactive Paper at Humanoids (2017). He has been in the Program Committee of over 60 international conferences including IEEE ICRA, IROS, RSS, HUMANOIDS BIOROB and ICAR. Nikos Tsagarakis was Technical Editor of IEEE/ASME Transactions in Mechatronics (2012-2015) and from 2014 is serving on the Editorial Board of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters. Since 2013, he is also serving as a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Robotics Research (CORE), Department of Informatics, King’s College University, and London, UK.

Research Expertise and Interests

Humanoid Robots, Mechanism Design, Compliant and Variable Impedance Actuators, Human Centered/Friendly Mechatronics of soft robotic arm/leg and wearable assistive devices and exoskeletons for power augmentation, Haptic Systems, Force and Tactile sensing.

Link to Humanoids and Human Centered Mechatronics Research Line: (HHCM)

Link to Humanoids and Human Centered Mechatronics Technology Transfer Project: (ALBEROBOTICS)


I am involved in the following projects and activities:


EU Project  SOPHIA (2020- 2023) Role: IIT Co-applicant

SOPHIA targets socio-physically adaptive, ergonomic, and reconfigurable production systems that are accessible and understandable by everyone. Such systems are built on the basis of human work processes backed by decision support tools, assistive and interactive robots and smart self-adapting workplace automation.

IIT & Kilometro Rosso JOiiNT LAB (2020-2024)

The JOiiNT LAB is a joint laboratory resulting from the partnership with some of the main innovation players in Bergamo, a highly industrial and technological province. The JOiiNT LAB is promoted by Intellimech, a consortium of companies aiming at fostering technology transfer and creating a synergy between the world of research and industrial needs, Confindustria Bergamo, a free, non-profit association of companies that plays a representative role of the industrial and tertiary enterprises of Bergamo and its province, Kilometro Rosso Innovation District, one of the places with the highest density of innovation at European level and the University of Bergamo.

EU Project EUROBENCH (2018-2022) Role: IIT Principal Investigaror

The EUROBENCH project aims to create the first unified benchmarking framework for robotic systems in Europe. This framework will allow companies and/or researchers to test the performance of their robots at any stage of development. The project is mainly focused on bipedal machines, i.e. exoskeletons, prosthetics and humanoids, but aims to be also extended to other robotic technologies. To this aim, EUROBENCH will develop two BENCHMARKING FACILITIES, one for wearable robots (including exoskeletons and prostheses) and the other for humanoid robots, to allow companies and/or researchers to perform standardized tests on advanced robotic prototypes in a unique location, saving resources and time.

EU Project CENTAURO (2015-2019) Role: IIT Principal Investigaror


The CENTAURO project aims at development of a human-robot symbiotic system where a human operator is telepresent with its whole body in a Centaur-like robot, which is capable of robust locomotion and dexterous manipulation in the rough terrain and austere conditions characteristic of disasters. The CENTAURO robot will consist of a four-legged basis and an anthropomorphic upper body and will be driven by lightweight, compliant actuators. It will be able to navigate in affected man-made environments, including the inside of buildings and stairs, which are cluttered with debris and partially collapsed. 
The Centauro system will be capable of using unmodified human tools for solving complex bimanual manipulation tasks, such as connecting a hose or opening a valve, in order to relieve the situation.

  EU Project CogiMon (2015-2019) Role: IIT Principal Investigaror

CogIMon aims to make a step in human-robot interaction toward the systemic integration of robust, dependable interaction abilities for teams of humans and compliant robots, in particular for the compliant humanoid COMAN. We focus on compliant interaction that requires motion and compliant behavior regulation of both the human(s) and the robot(s) and involves full-body variable impedance actuation, adaptability, prediction ability, dependability, flexibility, and enhanced motion. To achieve this ambitious goal, the project targets step-changes in key technologies and technology combinations that arise from novel scientific enabling concepts, interdisciplinary research on interacting humans, and engineering developments.

 EU Project WALK-MAN  (2013-2017) Role: Project Coordinator

WALK-MAN aims to develop a humanoid robots that can operate in buildings that were damaged following natural and man-made disasters. The robot will demonstrate new skills including dextrous, powerful manipulation, robust balanced locomotion and physical sturdiness. This project targets to significantly advance the current walking and locomotion capabilities of humanoid systems so that the robots will be able to walk in and through cluttered spaces (walking in a crowded environment) and maintain their balance against external disturbances, such as contact and impacts with objects or people. In parallel, WAK-MAN aims to advance the manipulation capabilities of existing humanoids by developing new hand designs that combine robustness and adaptability. This will take advantage of recent developments in mechanical design and materials that allow the creation of less fragile and delicate end-effectors that are capable of grasping/manipulating traditional handtools.

 EU Project SAPHARI (2011-2015) Role: IIT Principal Investigaror

Recent progress in physical Human‐Robot Interaction (pHRI) research showed in principle that human and robots can actively and safely share a common workspace. Inspired by these results, SAPHARI will perform a fundamental paradigm shift in robot development in the sense that it will place the human at the centre of the entire design. The project will take a big step further along the human‐centered roadmap by addressing all essential aspects of safe, intuitive physical interaction between humans and complex, human‐like robotic systems in a strongly interconnected manner. While encompassing safety issues based on biomechanical analysis, human‐friendly hardware design, and interaction control strategies, the project will also develop and validate key perceptive and cognitive components that enable robots to track, understand and predict human motions in a weakly structured dynamic environment in real‐time.

 EU Project AMARSI (2010-2014) Role: IIT Principal Investigaror

AMARSI aims to achieve a qualitative jump toward rich motor behaviour in robotic systems, rigorously following a systematic approach in which novel mechanical systems with passive compliance, control and learning solutions will be integrated. With regards to the mechanical systems with passive compliance the goal is to reduce the distinction between plant and controller that is typical in traditional control engineering and to fully exploit complex body properties, to simplify perception, control and learning and to explore how compliance can be exploited for safer human robot interaction, reduced energy consumption, simplified control, and faster and more aggressive learning.

 EU Project VIACTORS (2009-2012) Role: IIT Principal Investigaror

VIACTORS addresses the development and use of safe, energy-efficient and highly dynamic variable impedance actuation systems which will permit the embodiment of natural characteristics found in biological systems into the structures of the new generation of mechatronic systems. The results of this project will deeply impact applications where successful task completion requires people and robots to collaborate directly in a shared workspace or robots to move autonomously and as efficiently as humans.

 EU Project ROBOTCUB (2004-2009)

ROBOTCUB was a research initiative dedicated to the realization of embodied cognitive systems and the creation of an advanced robotic platform for neuroscientific study. The two main goals of this project are; the creation of an open hardware/software humanoid robotic platform (iCub) for research in embodied cognition and the advancing of our neural understanding of cognitive systems by exploiting this platform in the study of the development of cognitive capabilities in humanoid robots.



§  Best Conference Paper Finalist  (IEEE Robio 2019)

J.A.Castano, C.Zhou, N.G. Tsagarakisl, “Design a Fall Recovery Strategy for the Wheeled-Legged Quadruped Robot Centauro using Stability Feature Space”, IEEE Robotics and Biomimetics (ROBIO 2019).

§   Best Interacrtive Paper (IEEE Humanoids 2017)

D. Kanoulas; C. Zhou; A. Nguyen; G. Kanoulas; D. G. Caldwell; N. G. Tsagarakis, “Vision-based foothold contact reasoning using curved surface patches”, IEEE-RAS 17th International Conference on Humanoid Robotics, 2017

§   Selected as Cover paper of Journal of Bionic Engineering (Journal of Bionic Engineering  2017)

Chengxu Zhou, Xin Wang, Zhibin Li, N.G. Tsagarakis, “Overview of Gait Synthesis for the Humanoid COMAN”, Journal of Bionic Engineering, 2017

§   Best Interacrtive Paper Finalist (IEEE Humanoids 2016)

L. Peternel, Luka; N.G. Tsagarakis, D.G. Caldwell, A. Ajoudani, “Adaptation of Robot Physical Behaviour to Human Fatigue in Human-Robot Co-Manipulation”, IEEE International Conference on Humanoid Robots – HHUMANOIDS 2016

§   Best Interacrtive Paper Finalist (IEEE Humanoids 2015)

E. Spyrakos-Papastavridis, N. Kashiri, J. Lee, N. G. Tsagarakis, D. G. Caldwell, 'Online Impedance Parameter Tuning for Compliant Biped Balancing,' IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, HUMANOIDS 2015.

§   Best Student Paper Award (ICINCO 2014)

Navvab Kashiri, N. G. Tsagarakis, M. Van Damme, B. Vanderborght, D. G. Caldwell, “Enhanced Physical Interaction Performance for Compliant Joint Manipulators using
Proxy-based Sliding Mode Control”, International Conference on Informatics in Control, Automation and Robotics (ICINCO), Vienna, 2014.

§   Best Conference Paper Award Finalist (ICINCO 2014)

Navvab Kashiri, N. G. Tsagarakis, M. Van Damme, B. Vanderborght, D. G. Caldwell, “Enhanced Physical Interaction Performance for Compliant Joint Manipulators using
Proxy-based Sliding Mode Control”, International Conference on Informatics in Control, Automation and Robotics (ICINCO), Vienna, 2014.

§   Best Presentation Award Finalist (Automatica 2014)

A. Ajoudani, N. G. Tsagarakis, and A. Bicchi, "Transferring Human Impedance Regulation Skills to Robots", Automatica, Bergamo, Italy, 2014

Best Student Paper Award (IEEE Robio 2013)

Nikos Karavas, Arash Ajoudani, N.G. Tsagarakis and Darwin Caldwell, “Human-Inspired Balancing Assistance: Application to a Knee Exoskeleton”, IEEE Robotics and Biomimetics (ROBIO 2013).

§  Best Conference Paper Finalist  (IEEE Robio 2013)

Nikos Karavas, Arash Ajoudani, N.G. Tsagarakis and Darwin Caldwell, “Human-Inspired Balancing Assistance: Application to a Knee Exoskeleton”, IEEE Robotics and Biomimetics (ROBIO 2013).

§   Best Paper Finalist (IEEE Humanoids 2012)

Zhibin Li, N.G. Tsagarakis, D.G. Caldwell, “A Passivity Based Admittance Control for Stabilizing the Compliant Humanoid COMAN”, IEEE Humanoids 2012.

§ Best Jubilee Video Award (IEEE/RSJ IROS 2012)

B. Vanderborght, A. Albu-Schaeffer, A.Bicchi E. Burdet, D. Caldwell, R. Carloni, M. Catalano, G. Ganesh, M. Garabini, M. Grebenstein, G. Grioli, S. Haddadin, A. Jafari, M. Laffranchi, D. Lefeber, F. Petit, S. Stramigioli, N. G. Tsagarakis, M. Van Damme, R. Van Ham, L.C. Visser, S. Wolf, "Variable Impedance Actuators: Moving the Robots of Tomorrow", IEEE/RSJ Int. Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2012.

§ Best Manipulation Paper Finalist (IEEE ICRA 2012)

Adjoudani, N.G.Tsagarakis, A. Bicchi, "Tele-Impedance: Towards Transferring Human Impedance Regulation Skills to Robots", IEEE Int. Conference on Robotics and Automation Conference (ICRA), St Paul, Minnesota, 2012.

§ 2009 PE Publishing Prize of the Journal of Systems and Control Engineering

J.A. Saglia, N.G.Tsagarakis, J.S. Dai and D.G. Caldwell, "Inverse Kinematics Based Control of a Redundantly Actuated Platform for Rehabilitation", Journal of Systems and Control Engineering, IMechE Vol. 223, pp53-70, 2009.

§ NTF Award Finalist for Entertainment Robots and Systems (IEEE/RSJ IROS 2007)

I.Sarakoglou, M.Benzichec, N.G.Tsagarakis, D.G.Caldwell, "Free to touch: A portable Tactile Display For 3D surface exploration", IEEE/RSJ Int. Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pp3587-3592, 2006.

§ Best Paper Award (IEE ICAR 2003)

N.G. Tsagarakis and Darwin G. Caldwell, "Development and Control of a Physiotherapy and Training Exercise Facility for the Upper Limb Using Soft Actuators", IEEE Int. Conference on Advanced Robotics (ICAR 2003), Coimbra, Portugal, July 2003.

§   Distinction Award in Mathematics: (Olympiad of Mathematics 1988)                                                                        

$   Distinction Award in Mathematics:(Olympiad of Mathematics 1986)


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