The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Institutes of Health (NIH), in collaboration with three other federal agencies, has announced that six projects will receive $4.4 million in funding, subject to availability, under the National Robotics Initiative (NRI). The awardees will work on projects that would accelerate the development of the next generation of robots that can interact and work cooperatively with people and respond to changing environments in a variety of healthcare applications. Three of the six projects pertain to O&P:
- Control of Powered Segmented Legs for Humanoids and Rehabilitation Robotics: The goal of this project is to uncover the principles behind the biomechanical design and neuromuscular control of human legs in a variety of gaits and to transfer these principles to the design and control of powered leg prostheses and robotic rehabilitation devices. Project leader: Hartmut Geyer, PhD, assistant professor, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.
- High Performance Robotic Below-Knee Prostheses: The proposed project aims to develop a novel robotic actuator that can generate more power and store a larger amount of energy in a compact and lightweight robotic prosthesis, with the objective of significantly enhancing the health and life quality of the 400,000 individuals with transtibial amputations in the United States. Project leader: Xiangrong Shen, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.
- Brain Machine Interface Control of a Therapeutic Exoskeleton: This proposal plans to combine a human-robot interface with a non-invasive brain-machine to allow patients to use their thoughts to control the movement of the robot to better rehabilitate their stroke-affected upper limb. Project leaders: Marcia O’Malley, PhD, associate professor of mechanical engineering, Rice University, Houston, Texas, and director of Rice’s Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces Lab; Gerard Francisco, MD, clinical professor and chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, and adjunct professor of PM&R at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston; and José Luis Contreras-Vidal, PhD, director of the University of Houston (UH), Texas, Noninvasive Brain-Machine Interface Systems Laboratory and a UH professor of electrical and computer engineering. (Editor’s note: Details of this project were previously reported on.)