Bioengineering Seminar

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"Bio-hybrid Robotics and Human 2.0"

H. Harry Asada, Ph.D.

Ford Professor of Engineering
Director, d'Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology
Head, Control, Instrumentation, and Robotics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Humans can extend their physical and cognitive abilities to an unprecedented level in the near future. Human 2.0 can be an order of magnitude stronger, smarter, and more productive, as well as can live longer and keep their abilities for a longer period of life. This talk will address the possibility of creating a new generation of humans based on bio-hybrid robotics and bioengineering. First, a new type of wearable robots, called Supernumerary Robotic Limbs, will be introduced. A pair of robotic arms attached to the body of a human can help the human hold objects, support the body, share a workload, and streamline the execution of a task. A hemiplegic stroke survivor can perform bimanual tasks with one hand being assisted by a pair of extra robotic fingers. The neuro-motor control principle of “synergy” is applied to these wearable robots to coordinate the robotic limbs with the human.

In the second half of the talk, the possibility of using biological materials, specifically skeletal muscles, for replacing robotic actuators or ailing human muscles as well as for augmenting human physical abilities will be addressed. Three-dimensional tissue of fascicle-like skeletal muscle is formed by using a sacrificial molding technique and its mechanical properties are characterized. An optogenetic control technique is developed for controlling a multitude of skeletal muscle strips with high spatiotemporal resolution. A muscle training technique with coordinated mechanical and electrical/optical stimuli will be presented to significantly improve contractile performance.

Unlike robotic actuators, biological muscle actuators work in an ecosystem interacting with the environment. In the final segment of this talk, the on-going research on interactions between a multitude of cells and Extra-Cellular Matrix (ECM) will be addressed, with special emphasis on filopodia-ECM fiber interactions and their emergent behaviors. A computational model for predicting 3D cell-into-ECM invasion with detailed filopodia-ECM dynamics will be developed and integrated with experiments. This method will be applied to myogenesis and muscle maturation to better understand ECM fiber remodeling and its effect on contractile performance.

The focus of the Bio-Robotics group in the Brit and Alex d’Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology is science and technology of robotic systems motivated by both practical applications and scientific interests.

Biological systems have long been a metaphor of robotic systems as well as sources of inspiration for conceiving novel functionality and creating physical embodiments that perform diverse tasks. The d’Arbeloff Laboratory extends traditional bio-mimetic robotics to new frontiers of robotics science and technology to: seek effective solutions to socially and economically challenging problems, develop key enabling technologies, such as novel actuators, sensors, and communication technology, and explor the possibility of using live cells and organelles as components of robots.

Faculty host - Melissa Kemp, Ph.D.

The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, an internationally recognized hub of multidisciplinary research at the Georgia Institute of Technology, brings engineers, scientists, and clinicians together to solve some of the world’s most complex health challenges. With 18 research centers, more than 180 faculty members, and $24 million in state-of-the-art facilities, the Petit Institute is translating scientific discoveries into game-changing solutions to solve real-world problems.


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