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Emerging Technologies 2018 Session Listing

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Session B4: Advanced Prosthetics and Soft Robotics

Start Time: 09:00, Friday, May 11
Room: Sutcliffe B
Chaired by John Madden, University of British Columbia ( and Carlo Menon, Simon Fraser University (

  • 9:00 Carlo Menon, Simon Fraser University (

    Force myography: exploratory investigations

    The talk will focus on force-myography, which is a particular mechanomyographic approach (sometimes called by other names) that measures radial deformation and movements of tendons and muscles via sensors surrounding a limb. The talk will introduce force-myography and then present recent advancements made at Simon Fraser University in the field of motor function recovery, robotics and bionics.

  • 9:20 Michael Goldfarb, Vanderbilt University (

    Leveraging movement synergies to enhance the control of myoelectric prostheses

    Advances in mechatronic technology have enabled the development of prosthetic arms with increased movement capability, but the ability to exploit this increased capability is limited by the information and control bottleneck that currently exists between the user and prosthesis. Although EMG has traditionally been used to effectively relay volitional control information from the user to the prosthesis, the limited amount of EMG available (traditionally two EMG channels) introduces substantial challenges in providing multi-degree-of-freedom (DOF) coordinated movements. In order to potentially offer more effective control to the user, this talk explores potential opportunities to fuse additional complementary physical sensory information, such as grasp forces, internal arm configuration, and external arm configuration (i.e., orientation of arm segments in space) with EMG within movement-synergy-based control structures.

  • 9:40 Gursel Alici, University of Wollongong (

    Soft robotics for prosthetic devices; research challenges and opportunities

    As a continuously growing field of robotics, soft robotics is the science and engineering of the robots primarily made of soft materials, components and monolithic active structures such that these soft robots can safely interact with and adapt to their environment better than the robots made of hard components. Soft robotics offers unprecedented solutions for applications involving safe interaction with humans and objects, and manipulating and grasping fragile objects, crops and similar agricultural products. The progress in soft robotics will have a significant impact especially on medical applications such as wearable robots, prosthetic devices, assistive devices, and rehabilitation devices. Soft materials with programmable mechanical, electrical and rheological properties, and conformable to additive manufacturing based on 3D printing are essential to realize soft robots.


    In this talk, after briefly describing what characteristics differentiate the field of soft robotics from the conventional hard robotics, we will try to answer the question of where we are in soft robotics to establish prosthetic hands with features which will bring them one step closer to their natural counterparts. The primary feature of such a prosthetic hand is to interpret and receive the hand user’s intention noninvasively, and equally importantly send sensory feedback about the state of a prosthetic hand to its user noninvasively in order to help “restore normality” for prosthetic hand users. We will also present the progress we have made in the establishment of a fully 3D printed transradial prosthetic hand at our center of excellence, ACES, at University of Wollongong. We hope to create a medium of discussion and interaction among the delegates attending workshop and hence contribute to the consolidation of an effectual bridge between robotics, bionics and materials research in order to deliver the expected outcomes of soft robotics for prosthetic and rehabilitation devices in a timely manner.

  • 10:00 Ahmed Shehata, University of Alberta (

    Towards better prosthesis control: Using sensory feedback to improve performance

    The loss of outstanding dexterous tools, such as hands, presents a significant challenge for upper limb amputees when performing activities of daily living. Myoelectric Prosthesis may be used to replace lost hand functions. Although humans rely on both feedforward and feedback to interact with their environment, current myoelectric prostheses can partially restore feedback interactions to some extent; therefore, preventing users from interacting with their environment effectively. This talk will provide an overview of the technological advancements in the feedback forms, such as tactile and kinesthetic, that promote sense of agency and improve performance of prosthetic devices.

  • 10:20 COFFEE BREAK (Mt. Curie Foyer)


  • 10:40 Benoit Delhaye, University of Chicago (

    Restoring natural tactile feedback in bionic hands through a peripheral nerve interface

    Tactile feedback is essential to achieve a dexterous bionic hand. Without touch, interactions with objects are slow and clumsy, and require constant attention. In this talk, I will describe recent advances toward restoring useful somatosensory feedback in bionic hands through electrical stimulation of the peripheral nerves using chronically implanted electrode arrays. First, I will show that the perceived intensity of a tactile stimulus can be systematically manipulated by modulating the aggregate response of tactile nerve fibers and discuss how this response can be systematically manipulated by controlling stimulation parameters. Second, I will demonstrate that electrical stimulation of the nerve is subject to adaptation — an adjustment of sensitivity — and that electrically induced adaptation is similar to its mechanically (naturally) induced counterpart. Third, I will discuss the advantages of the biomimetic approach to tactile restoration. In brief, the closer we can mimic the activity that would be produced in the nerve during natural tactile interactions with objects, the more natural and useful the evoked sensations will be. I describe an approach we have developed to convey such naturalistic tactile feedback.

  • 11:00 Dan Blustein, University of New Brunswick (

    Towards improved neuroprostheses: using computational neuroscience to drive system development

    Assessment tools for upper limb prostheses provide little actionable information for clinicians to use in driving clinical progress. This talk will describe how emerging computational neuroscience models can be leveraged to provide detailed insight into prosthetic system performance. The assessment tools combine motor function tests, psychophysical assessment and computational modeling to quantify such system aspects as feedback naturalness, sensory and control uncertainty, and the effectiveness of a training protocol. Detailed system assessment can direct targeted engineering and clinical efforts to improve the performance of neuroprostheses.

  • 11:20 Maysam Ghovanloo, Georgia Tech (

    Fundamental building blocks for efficient power and wideband data transmission to mm-sized implantable microelectronic devices

    Wireless power and data transmission across short (mm to cm range) distance in the near-field domain is on the rise for a variety of applications from RFID and NFC to electric vehicles, smartphones, internet of things (IoT), as well as implantable microelectronic devices (IMD). Unlike pacemakers, extreme size constraints and high power consumption prevent many IMDs, such as cochlear/retinal implants and brain-computer interfaces (BCI) from using primary batteries as their energy source. Moreover, such devices need to deliver a sizable volume of information from external artificial sensors to the nervous system or from large neural populations to external processing tools that can infer the user intentions. The skin barrier should, however, remain intact and the temperature should remain well within the safe limits. In this talk I will review some of the latest techniques to deliver power with high efficiency to IMDs, particularly when the size of the implant is very small in the order of 1 mm, and establish wideband bidirectional communication links across the skin while staying within penetrating low-loss frequency bands. I will also touch on efficient methods to convert the received AC power to DC, boost it, and stabilize it at a desired level despite coupling variations due to significant coil misalignments. Using these methods, we have developed a distributed wireless neural interfacing system in the form of mm-sized "smart push-pins" that can be gently inserted into the cortex and cover a large area, while floating with the brain, without creating excessive sources of stress or strain around the electrodes because of tethering or micromotions. We are developing these free-floating distributed neural interfaces not only for wireless neural recording but also electrical and optical neuromodulation, together with a scalable ecosystem to evaluate their feasibility at the preclinical level on freely behaving small animals.

  • 11:40 Axel Guenther, University of Toronto (

    From protein-based planar and tubular structures to biohybrid systems

  • 12:00 J. Matt Kinsella, McGill University (

    Extrusion bioprinting of cell-laden engineered soft materials

    The cellular, biochemical, and biophysical heterogeneity of native tissue microenvironments are not recapitulated by growing immortalized cell lines using conventional 2D cell culture. These challenges can be overcome using bioprinting techniques to build heterogeneous 3D tissue models whereby, different types of cells are embedded. Alginate and gelatin are two of the most common biomaterials employed in bioprinting due to their biocompatibility, biomimicry, and mechanical properties. By combining the two polymers we demonstrate a bioprintable composite hydrogel with likenesses to the microscopic architecture of native tissue stroma. The printability of the composite hydrogels are evaluated using rheology which enables us to obtain mechanical characteristics of the material to acquire the optimal printing window. Breast cancer cells and fibroblasts embedded into the hydrogels were used for proof-of-concept experiments. The cell-laden composites can be printed to form a 3D model mimicking the in vivo tumor microenvironment. The bioprinted heterogeneous model achieves high viability for long-duration cell culture (>30 days) and promotes the self-assembly of the breast cancer cells into multicellular tumor spheroids (MCTSs) as would be observed in natural physiological conditions. We observed migration of the cancer associated fibroblast cells (CAFs) with the MCTSs in this model. Using bioprinted cell culture platforms as co-culture systems we are able to develop a unique tool to study the dependence of tumorigenesis on the stroma composition. The materials developed are a continuous effort towards a physiologically relevant "universal" bioink that can be tuned to have specific initial mechanical and biochemical properties for different tissue architectures.

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