“If you invest in early-age education and training of autistic children and do it intensively enough, you can improve their lives enormously. The problem is that at the moment, there is a dramatic lack of educators and adequate therapies to provide this vital support,” says LuxAI CEO
Pouyan Ziafati. “We believe that our QTrobot can contribute to turning this situation around.”
Dr Ziafati came up with the idea of QTrobot when looking for a way to commercialise the technology he had developed as a PhD student working on the programming of smart and intelligent robots at the University of Luxembourg. “Social robotics is a new area that I think has the potential to disrupt the healthcare and educational market,” he says. The humanoid QTrobot teaches facial expressions and emotions as well as body language to autistic children. Dr Ziafati points out that the messages sent out by the robot are simplified compared to human beings and can more easily be understood and repeated as many times as necessary. “Extensive research led by Dr Andreia Costa at the University of Luxembourg shows that when the training is given by QTrobot instead of a person, the children are more engaged and show less stress and disruptive behaviour.
”While autism is the main field of application, LuxAI also works with other areas such as care for the elderly. “Currently, only a handful of social robots exist in the world,” says Dr Ziafati. “Our aim is to democratise their use and make it possible to use them anywhere – by teachers and specialised therapists in the classroom and even at home. Our technology makes it possible for anyone to adapt the robot to their training and therapy needs without having any specific IT knowledge.”
A European partnership for staying on top
QTrobot is already being used in therapy centres in France and Luxembourg. As it is equipped with cameras and microphones, it is imperative for LuxAI to be able to guarantee the privacy and security of collected data. To address this issue, the company turned to Horizon 2020, the EU’s framework programme for research and innovation. “Horizon 2020 offers great support for our research activities as well as excellent opportunities to network with top European companies and research institutes in order to stay on top in a range of different fields,” says Dr Ziafati. “Through the SecureIoT project, we are part of a network of 14 partners that aim to conduct research and develop predictive security for Internet of Things platforms and networks of smart objects. Our QTrobot will be securely integrated into the ambient assisted living platform of another partner and tested in great detail. This will help us make sure that our platform is completely up to date in terms of security and privacy measures and is ready for the security challenges of the future.”
Horizon 2020 is a vast programme covering a multitude of topics. Funding is offered through highly competitive and often complex calls for proposals. This is where Luxinnovation comes in. “Luxinnovation’s European funding team are very proactive,” says Dr Ziafati. “They look into different calls and match them with the expertise of Luxembourg companies. When relevant opportunities come up, they contact us and provide us with a summary of the most important call information. We have also several times participated in their tailor-made information sessions.” Large Horizon 2020 projects include a lot of administration matters that need to be dealt with correctly, and Luxinnovation helped LuxAI with such issues for the SecureIoT project. “The funding experts made themselves available very quickly, even on the same day when their help was needed urgently,” Dr Ziafati points out. “Their service was amazing and I really appreciated it.”
Luxinnovation is the National Contact Point for Horizon 2020, the European framework programme for research and innovation. Building on our decade-long experience of EU funding programmes, we are able to respond to questions on where to get up-to-date information on programmes and calls for project proposals, what programmes are the most suitable for you or where and how to find European partners.
Luxinnovation contributes to the economic development of Luxembourg by fostering innovation, fuelling international growth and attracting foreign direct investment and is supported by: Ministry of the Economy, Ministry for Higher Education and Research, Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, Luxembourg Chamber of Skilled Crafts and FEDIL – The Voice of Luxembourg’s Industry.