Roaming the corridors of Pisa’s Cisanello Hospital during the Covid-19 emergency is a curious and bizarre figure: AlterEgo is a two-wheeled robot similar to a Segway, equipped with prehensile hands and a head that some might say resembles Disney’s WALL-E. Could the world predicted by writer Isaac Asimov in the 1950s, in which robots make a substantial contribution to human development, really be moving closer?
AlterEgo was not created by the Enrico Piaggio Research Centre at the University of Pisa, in collaboration with IIT, merely for fun. AlterEgo is a robot-avatar capable of interacting with his surrounding environment, inspecting dangerous areas and providing assistance to those in need, such as hospital patients. AlterEgo is both delicate and precise in its movements: its hands have autonomous intelligence and its fingers adapt to the shape of the objects that it grips. Strength and delicateness depend on the human operator connected remotely, with a joystick and virtual reality visor. AlterEgo, in fact, can be operated from far away via Wi-Fi and during the tests at the Cisanello Hospital its “operator” was located in Genoa.