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The Human Brain Project and Shadow collaboration involves integrating  Shadow hardware on the HBP Neurorobotics Platform to explore the possibilities offered by neuroscience for motor control, especially with spiking neural networks and reinforcement learning.

You’ll find our project breakdown below. This is a working page where we’ll be uploading updates as we go along.


Project Title:

Shadow and the HBP Collaboration


Project Duration:

From 2019 to 2020


Project Facilitators:

Co-funded by the European Union


Project Collaborators:

Shadow Robot Company, Human Brain Project


We’re working with Human Brain Project as part of their Voucher Programme to bridge the robotic and neuroscience communities.


Project Intro:

Shadow Robot Company has taken a truly anthropomorphic approach to building robots capable of manipulation. The Shadow Hand approximates the kinematics of the human hand – from its overall size to the 20 actuated degrees of freedom along with a further 4 under-actuated movements for a total of 24 joints. The Shadow hand is fully sensed, with joint position, motor current and tendon force sensing across the whole hand, providing a data-rich environment for control technologies to use.

Its availability in simulations on the HBP Neurorobotics Platform will make it possible for existing and future Shadow Robot customers to easily explore learning paradigms and control models coming from neuroscience, something no other simulation platform can offer. The goal of this project is to explore the possibilities offered by neuroscience for motor control, especially with spiking neural networks and reinforcement learning.


Project Overview:

During this project, the Shadow – HBP collaboration would involve:

Developing a library of models in the NRP with Shadow’s advanced commercial-grade anthropomorphic hand models. Also, the platform’s value proposition will be enhanced with a more robust numerical simulation of grasping, as the need for reliable tools for numerical simulation of grasping is critical. Finally, the collaboration will result in increased visibility of the platform within the robotics community. In general, the work that it is going to be carried out will contribute to bridge the neuroscience and robotic communities.


Project Objectives:

The objectives and benefits of this project are:

  • To evaluate the novel learning techniques and robot controllers from HBP researchers
  • To enhance Shadow Robot´s current control system through embodied AI and brain-derived controllers using the Neurorobotics Platform
  • To explore the use of spiking neural networks as a promising avenue for highly energy-efficient real-time control with neuromorphic hardware such as SpiNNaker
  • To explore the design space of robot controllers


Project Details & Contributions:


The Shadow Hand can now be simulated within HBP’s Neurorobotics Platform: The platform connects a physics simulator (either ODE or Simbody) to a variety of brains or neural networks, implemented via Tensorflow, NEST and Nengo.

This allows for quick experimentation, testing and reconfiguration of neural networks, removing the need for time-consuming physical setups. Each Shadow Hand joint can be individually linked to both the input and/or output of the brain, giving the user a huge level of control over the link between hand and neural network. Contact based feedback can also forwarded to the brain.

Additionally, the NRP utilizes ROS, meaning any existing setup using this software can be ported to the platform.

Project Exploitation:

TBC once the project has ended


Project Conclusions:

TBC once the project has ended


If you have any questions regarding the project or any of our products, feel free to get in touch by emailing or calling us on +44 (0)20 7700 2487​