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Soft Wearable Robots for Restoring Mobility and Manipulation for Patients with Physical Impairments

The keynote address will be delivered by Trinity alumni Conor J. Walsh

Date: Monday 10 April 2017
Time: 6pm
Venue: Stanley Quek Theatre, TBSI, 152-160 Pearse Street
This free event is open to the public, no booking required

 

The goal of this talk is to highlight recent and growing efforts in the field of soft wearable robotics and discuss how this technologies may be used in a variety of contexts. This rapidly emerging field of soft robotics presents a new opportunity to develop a new class of wearable assistive technology optimized for the needs of individuals with residual capacity, i.e. where only small to moderate levels of assistance is needed to improve function.  The technical requirements for actuation, human interface, and sensors/control needed to realize soft wearable robots are fundamentally different than those for rigid exoskeletons, necessitating fundamental technological development in areas of actuation, sensing, flexible electronics, control and system integration. We present this technology in two application areas. The first is stroke, where walking is characteristically slow and metabolically-expensive. Conventional rehabilitation efforts have had limited effectiveness in restoring normal walking behavior, often relying on gait compensations for the limited gains observed. We present a unilateral, soft wearable robot (exosuit) designed to supplement the paretic limb’s residual ability to generate forward propulsion and ground clearance during walking could facilitate more normal walking behavior. the second is spinal cord injury where patients often lose the ability to grasp objects and their poor hand function limits their ability to perform activities of daily living. We present a lightweight, fabric-based soft robotic glove capable of applying sufficient assistance to improve grasping functions and its demonstrate improvements in a number of individuals  who have suffered a spinal cord injury performing everyday tasks. More details can be found at http://biodesign.seas.harvard.edu.

Professor Conor J. Walsh

Conor Walsh is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering & Applied Sciences and a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. He founded and directs the Harvard Biodesign Lab, which brings together researchers from the engineering, industrial design, apparel, clinical and business communities to develop new disruptive robotic technologies for augmenting and restoring human performance. This research includes new approaches to the design, manufacture and control of next generation wearable robotic devices and characterizing their performance through biomechanical and physiological studies so as to further the scientific understanding of how humans interact with such machines. Example application areas include enhancing the mobility of healthy individuals, restoring the mobility of patients with gait deficits and assisting those with upper extremity weakness to perform activities of daily living. His group’s work is highly translation focused and has established multiple partnerships with industry. He is the winner of multiple awards including the MIT Technology Review Innovator Under 35 Award, IEEE Early Academic Career Award in Robotics and Automation, the Rolex Award for Enterprise, Popular Science Brilliant 10, National Science Foundation Career Award, the Robotics Business Review Next Generation Game Changer Award and the MIT 100K Entrepreneurship Competition Grand Prize. Conor received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT.