Next Generation Soft Wearable Robots

Speaker: Conor Walsh , Harvard University

Date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Time: 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM Note: all times are in the Eastern Time Zone

Public: Yes

Location: 32-G882

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Host: Russ Tedrake, CSAIL, EECS

Contact: Ramanarayan Vasudevan,

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Reminder Subject: TALK: Next Generation Soft Wearable Robots

Next generation wearable robots will use soft materials such as textiles and elastomers to provide a more conformal, unobtrusive and compliant means to interface to the human body. These robots will augment the capabilities of healthy individuals (e.g. improved walking efficiency, increased grip strength) in addition to assisting patients who suffer from physical or neurological disorders. This talk will focus on two different projects that demonstrate the design, fabrication and control principles required to realize these systems. The first is a soft exosuit that that can apply assistive joint torques to synergistically propel the wearer forward and provide support to minimize loading on the musculoskeletal system. Unlike traditional exoskeletons which contain rigid framing elements, the soft exosuit is worn like clothing, yet can generate significant moments at the ankle and hip to assist with walking.

Future versions of the exosuit will monitor the 3D kinematics and kinetics of the wearer using soft stretchable sensors that do not interfere with the natural mechanics of motion. Advantages of the suit over traditional exoskeletons are that the wearer's joints are unconstrained by external rigid structures, and the worn part of the suit is extremely light, which minimizes the suit's unintentional interference with the body's natural biomechanics. The second part of the talk will focus on the preliminary development of a soft robotic glove for hand rehabilitation that consists of a wearable textile with attached elastomeric fluid-powered actuators specially designed to match the natural movements of the fingers and thumb.

A component of the research is to develop the knowledge and techniques required to design soft multi-material fluid-powered actuators. These actuators, powered by pneumatic or hydraulic means, are of particular interest to the robotics community because they are lightweight, inexpensive, easily fabricated with emerging digital fabrication techniques and capable of producing complex three-dimensional outputs with simple control inputs. This is accomplished via a multi-step molding process where some combination of fillers (e.g. cloth, paper, particles and fibers) is integrated into a soft elastomeric matrix to create anisotropy in the bulk material properties. Upon pressurization, embedded channels or chambers in the soft actuator then expand in directions with the lowest stiffness and give rise to linear, bending, and twisting motions.

Conor is Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He is also the founder of the Harvard Biodesign Lab, which brings together researchers from the engineering, industrial design, medical and business communities to develop smart medical devices and translate them to industrial partners in collaboration with the Wyss Institute's Advanced Technology Team. His educational interest is in the area of medical device innovation where he mentors student design teams on projects with clinicians in Boston and in emerging regions such as India. Conor received his B.A.I and B.A. degrees in Mechanical and Manufacturing engineering from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, in 2003, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006 and 2010. He has been the recipient of over a dozen invention, entrepreneurship, and student mentoring awards including the MIT $100K business plan competition, Whitaker Health Sciences Fund Fellowship, and the MIT Graduate Student Mentor of the Year.

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Created by Ramanarayan Vasudevan Email at Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 10:37 AM.