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Giulia Cappagli

Affiliated Researcher
Postdoctoral Research Scientist

Research Line

Unit for Visually Impaired People


IIT Central Research Labs Genova


Via Morego 30
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Giulia Cappagli studied Experimental Psychology and received her Master of Science in Psychology from the University of Florence in Italy (2012 - Prof. David Burr) with a thesis regarding the influence of the regression to the mean phenomenon on time perception in musicians. She became licensed Psychologist after one year of formal traineeship spent both at the University College London UCL in London, United Kingdom (Centre for Research in Autism and Education – Prof. Elizabeth Pellicano) and at the Institute of Neuroscience INS in Florence, Italy (Prof. Stefano Pallanti and Roberto di Rubbo). She obtained and successfully received a Ph.D. in Bioengineers and Robotics from the University of Genoa affiliated with the Italian Institute of Technology (2017 – Prof. Giulio Sandini and Monica Gori). During her Phd, she actively worked at the European project ABBI (Audio Bracelet for Blind Interactions). The project aimed at assessing spatial perception in children and adults with visual impairments and to rehabilitate the impaired aspects of spatial perception by developing an audio bracelet that provides auditory feedback of body movements. For more info, please visit the website ( ) or email the collaborators.

Currently, Giulia is working on the European project weDRAW ( which aims at exploiting the best sensory modality for learning arithmetic and geometrical concepts based on multisensory interactive Information and Communication Technologies and serious games. Her research interests cover a range of topics related to assessment and rehabilitation of spatial perception in visually impaired individuals, time perception in specific population such as musicians and autistic individuals, music therapy for developmental diseases. She was awarded a diploma with top marks in Music (Saxophone) from the Conservatory of La Spezia and a diploma in Music Therapy funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).


multisensory development; innovation for rehabilitation; developmental disabilities


Seeing the world differently

Autism is a developmental disorder that affect the way in which an individual interacts and communicates with others, but also perceives environmental stimuli.
Research suggests that autistic people view and interpret and the world around them differently from non-autistic people. Recently it has been suggested that autistic people perceive the world as it "really is" rather than as imbued by prior experiences, which could help explain the range and idiosyncrasy of sensory sensitivities and their difficulties dealing with new experiences (Pellicano & Burr, 2012).
In this project, we will investigate this possibility by comparing the perceptual functions of children with autism and typically developing children using innovative experimental techniques. In collaboration with the PisaVisionLab in Pisa (Italy) the team has developed a series of fun computer games, aiming to tap some of the perceptual experiences in autism. We will see whether the perceptual experiences of children with autism are less "adaptable" than children without autism. We also want to know whether these differences occur generally throughout the brain or whether they might be specific to processing only certain types of sensory information. Furthermore, we will use powerful forms of computer (Bayesian) modelling, which should be of great assistance in pinpointing precisely which psychological processes might be different in autism.

Team members: Themis Karaminis, Louise Neil, Elizabeth Pellicano



The development of technologies to support the inclusion of adults and children with visual disabilities is a big societal challenges for ICT Research. Vision is essential to build up important cognitive representations and early onset of blindness affects adversely psychomotor, spatial and social development. Moreover, early intervention is fundamental. The core idea of the project, based on a new understanding of the role of vision in the development of blind and normal children, is that audio feedback about body movements might help the blind child to build a sense of space. The main device to achieve this objective is the Audio Bracelet for Blind Interactions (ABBI) which will be positioned on the wrist of the child and/or of the people around. The generated sound (for which the position will be perceived aurally) will be triggered by the body movement and will give spatial information on where and how the movement is occurring. The use of ABBI will provide important information for posture control, motor coordination and spatial orientation reducing the risk of exclusion for disabled individuals.Unlike most existing sensory substitution devices that are introduced in late childhood or adulthood, the approach proposed in ABBI does not require to learn new “languages” and it can be applied in the first years of life. Further development of the ABBI in this project will endow the device with the capacity to interact with other ABBIs and react in a smart manner to the context as well as additional assistive functions. The ABBI project aims at: a) developing a new set of devices to rehabilitate spatial cognition, mobility and social interaction of children and adults with visual deficits through natural audio-motor and tactile-motor associations; b) demonstrating and validating the technology through user, experimental and clinical studies.

Team members: Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, University of Hamburg, University of Glasgow, University of Lund, Istituto David Chiossone



The weDRAW project comes from the renewed neuroscientific understanding of the role of communication between sensory modalities during development: specific sensory systems have specific roles to learn specific concepts. Starting from these results, in weDRAW we will develop an multisensory technology and three serious games that will exploit the best modality for learning arithmetic and geometrical concepts. Besides application to typical children, a major goal and output of this project consists of applying the proposed multisensory approach and technologies to two specific populations: visually impaired and dyslexic children. In particular, dyslexic children have problems with rhythm, whereas visually impaired children have problems with space and geometry. With weDRAW we expect to improve the spatial and temporal impairments of these two groups of children braking down social barriers. In particular weDRAW will: a) provide the elements to the teacher to determine which is the best modality (visual, audio or haptic) to teach each specific concepts to the students; b) provide the technology to exploit the best sensory signal; c) show that it is possible to learn arithmetical concepts from multisensory rhythm exploration and music and geometrical concepts from body movement and multisensory drawing; e) permit a “deeper learning of Science and Mathematics combined with Arts” improving creative capacities of learners.

Team members: Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, University of Genova, Infomus Lab, University College of London, University of Dublin, Ignition Factory, LTPM, VBC, Istituto David Chiossone, De Agostini



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I numeri di IIT

L’Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) è una fondazione di diritto privato - cfr. determinazione Corte dei Conti 23/2015 “IIT è una fondazione da inquadrare fra gli organismi di diritto pubblico con la scelta di un modello di organizzazione di diritto privato per rispondere all’esigenza di assicurare procedure più snelle nella selezione non solo nell’ambito nazionale dei collaboratori, scienziati e ricercatori ”.

IIT è sotto la vigilanza del Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca e del Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze ed è stato istituito con la Legge 326/2003. La Fondazione ha l'obiettivo di promuovere l'eccellenza nella ricerca di base e in quella applicata e di favorire lo sviluppo del sistema economico nazionale. La costruzione dei laboratori iniziata nel 2006 si è conclusa nel 2009.

Lo staff complessivo di IIT conta circa 1440 persone. L’area scientifica è rappresentata da circa l’85% del personale. Il 45% dei ricercatori proviene dall’estero: di questi, il 29% è costituito da stranieri provenienti da oltre 50 Paesi e il 16% da italiani rientrati. Oggi il personale scientifico è composto da circa 60 principal investigators, circa 110 ricercatori e tecnologi di staff, circa 350 post doc, circa 500 studenti di dottorato e borsisti, circa 130 tecnici. Oltre 330 posti su 1400 creati su fondi esterni. Età media 34 anni. 41% donne / 59 % uomini.

Nel 2015 IIT ha ricevuto finanziamenti pubblici per circa 96 milioni di euro (80% del budget), conseguendo fondi esterni per 22 milioni di euro (20% budget) provenienti da 18 progetti europei17 finanziamenti da istituzioni nazionali e internazionali, circa 60 progetti industriali

La produzione di IIT ad oggi vanta circa 6990 pubblicazioni, oltre 130 finanziamenti Europei e 11 ERC, più di 350 domande di brevetto attive, oltre 12 start up costituite e altrettante in fase di lancio. Dal 2009 l’attività scientifica è stata ulteriormente rafforzata con la creazione di dieci centri di ricerca nel territorio nazionale (a Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) e internazionale (MIT ed Harvard negli USA) che, unitamente al Laboratorio Centrale di Genova, sviluppano i programmi di ricerca del piano scientifico 2015-2017.

IIT: the numbers

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is a public research institute that adopts the organizational model of a private law foundation. IIT is overseen by Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca and Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze (the Italian Ministries of Education, Economy and Finance).  The Institute was set up according to Italian law 326/2003 with the objective of promoting excellence in basic and applied research andfostering Italy’s economic development. Construction of the Laboratories started in 2006 and finished in 2009.

IIT has an overall staff of about 1,440 people. The scientific staff covers about 85% of the total. Out of 45% of researchers coming from abroad 29% are foreigners coming from more than 50 countries and 16% are returned Italians. The scientific staff currently consists of approximately 60 Principal Investigators110 researchers and technologists350 post-docs and 500 PhD students and grant holders and 130 technicians. External funding has allowed the creation of more than 330 positions . The average age is 34 and the gender balance proportion  is 41% female against 59% male.

In 2015 IIT received 96 million euros in public funding (accounting for 80% of its budget) and obtained 22 million euros in external funding (accounting for 20% of its budget). External funding comes from 18 European Projects, other 17 national and international competitive projects and approximately 60 industrial projects.

So far IIT accounts for: about 6990 publications, more than 130 European grants and 11 ERC grants, more than 350 patents or patent applications12 up start-ups and as many  which are about to be launched. The Institute’s scientific activity has been further strengthened since 2009 with the establishment of 11 research nodes throughout Italy (Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) and abroad (MIT and Harvard University, USA), which, along with the Genoa-based Central Lab, implement the research programs included in the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan.