For nearly 100 years, we have understood the idea that it might be possible to restore sight to those who have become blind through a device that delivers electrical stimulation to the brain [Mirochnik, Pezaris, 2019]. Visual prostheses, as they are called, form part of a constellation of approaches that seek to deliver input to the brain to replace a lost or missing sense, including cochlear implants for the deaf, and cortical implants for the insensate, such as amputees with robotic arms. The challenges faced by each approach are similar: biological compatibility, long-term functional stability, and interpretability of the evoked sensations. Biological compatibility has thus far been addressed by careful selection of materials and implant techniques, but much remains to be done to create devices that the body will tolerate for decades with a low risk of infection or rejection. The first major challenge is long-term functional stability; ensuring that the effectiveness of the devices do not degrade over time.
Back pain is one of the leading causes of work absenteeism in the UK, with 8.8 million days lost to work-related muscoskeletal disorders per year. On average, each case causes 16 days of absenteeism, and chronic conditions can cause some absences to become permanent. But working in a bent forward, back straining posture is unavoidable in a great many professions, like in hospital, agricultural and warehouses environments to name but a few. This regular exposure to demanding postures increases the risk of debilitating pain, which can severely reduce productivity and moral in the workforce. The Laevo Exoskeleton aims to alleviate this problem.
In recent years we've seen new, disruptive innovations in the world of wearable technology; advances that will potentially transform life, business, and the global economy. Products like Google Glass, Apple Watch, and Oculus Rift promise not only to change the way we approach information, but also our long established patterns of social interaction. Indeed, we are witnessing the advent of entirely new genre of interface mechanisms that brings with it a fundamental paradigm shift in how we view and interact with technology. Recognizing, understanding, and effectively leveraging today's growing landscape of wearables is likely to be increasingly essential to the success of a wide array of businesses. In this article, we discuss the ways in which effective interface design will need to adapt, in some ways dramatically, to address the new psychology of wearable technology.
A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry. By now you've undoubtedly read or viewed several different CES stories across a wide range of publications and media sites. So there's no need to rehash the details about all the cool, crazy or just plain interesting new products that were introduced at or around this year's show in Las Vegas. But it usually takes a few days to think through the potential impact of what these announcements mean from a big-picture perspective. The impact of technology on nearly all aspects of our lives continues to grow.
Human-centered design of wearable robots involves the development of innovative science and technologies that minimize the mismatch between humans’ and machines’ capabilities, leading to their intuitive integration and confluent interaction. Here, we summarize our human-centered approach to the design of closed-loop brain-machine interfaces (BMI) to powered prostheses and exoskeletons that allow people to act beyond their impaired or diminished physical or sensory-motor capabilities. The goal is to develop multifunctional human-machine interfaces with integrated diagnostic, assistive and therapeutic functions. Moreover, these complex human-machine systems should be effective, reliable, safe and engaging and support the patient in performing intended actions with minimal effort and errors with adequate interaction time. To illustrate our approach, we review an example of a user-in-the-loop, patient-centered, non-invasive BMI system to a powered exoskeleton for persons with paraplegia. We conclude with a summary of challenges to the translation of these complex human-machine systems to the end-user.