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Removing the safety fences that separate humans and robots, to allow for an effective human-robot interaction, requires innovative safety control systems. An advanced functionality of a safety controller might be to detect the presence of humans entering the robotic cell and to estimate their intention, in order to enforce an effective safety reaction. This paper proposes advanced algorithms for cognitive vision, empowered by a dynamic model of human walking, for detection and tracking of humans. Intention estimation is then addressed as the problem of predicting online the trajectory of the human, given a set of trajectories of walking people learnt offline using an unsupervised classification algorithm. Results of the application of the presented approach to a large number of experiments on volunteers are also reported.