Prof. dr. Raffaella Carloni

Professor in Robotics

Operating Theatre of the Future

HTRIC adds a layer to scientific collaborations

A patient who needs an artificial limb has to learn how to use it and to adapt to it. Dealing with an external part of the body is not easy and intuitive, and it requires a long process of practice and adaptation for the amputee, Raffaella Carloni explains. How nice would it be if a sophisticated artificial limb became a truly integrated part of the body, which learns from the user how to function with the help of artificial intelligence? It sounds like something from the future, but according to Raffaella, it might become reality earlier than expected.

“The operating theatre of the future, that’s where the magic happens.”

Strong connections in an interdisciplinary team

The love for Groningen appeared to be mutual when Jacquelien Scherpen and Erik Boddeke asked Raffaella if she wanted to be one of HTRIC’s figureheads. She finds it self-evident to work in an interdisciplinary environment. Raffaella explains that HTRIC adds a layer to this. HTRIC is a place where scientists, researchers, business developers, and companies meet to find innovative technological solutions to clinical problems and to bring them to clinical practise. Technically speaking, scientists can aim at designing a prosthesis that can be used intuitively but, when it comes to its use, engineers, clinical partners, and patients needs to work closely. That is why UMCG is very much needed for cooperation. HTRIC can provide an amazing support in quickly bringing lab-prototypes to clinical trials and in creating the right connections with business developers and companies to transform these prototypes to products.

Raffaella thinks that the themes within HTRIC will make it easy for many research groups to join. While keeping an open mind to create the right connections in an interdisciplinary environment, focus is of core importance.

“Let’s not be afraid to continue adapting.”

Impact for the end-user: and that is the patient

In the process of her own research, Raffaella Carloni designs artificial limbs that should be intuitively operated, sensed, and trusted as the healthy and reliable counterpart: “The new generation of bio-inspired artificial limbs should learn from the user and should be fully-integrated in the human-body by means of bio-compatible implants and sensors.”

“Our research is patient-driven, we are working for them, so you ought to always keep them in mind. You are always in service of the people within my field of research. The risk of science is that you might forget the end-user sometimes. However, if you want to create an impact, then you’re talking about the impact for the end-user, and that is the patient.”

Raffaella believes that HTRIC is a wonderful initiative and is more than happy to be part of it. However, when asked if she has a recommendation, she answers: “We have defined three research themes and we will start from them. However, we should not be afraid to continue adapting to the societal needs and revise our plans, if necessary.”


Raffaella Carloni is an Associate Professor at the Bernoulli Institute for Mathematics, Computer Science, and Artificial Intelligence, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Groningen, where she directs the Robotics Laboratory. Her research interests include design, modelling and control of compliant robotic systems, novel (soft) actuators, and prosthetic devices.