Enhancing Human Anatomy to Improve Bionic Integration

Date(s) - 01/07/2019
3:00 pm

Communicore, C1-17

Tyler Clites, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher, Biomechatronics Group, MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

For thousands of years, humans have built devices such as prostheses and orthoses to improve mobility and locomotion. Although many of these efforts have resulted in enhanced functionality, they have been fundamentally constrained by limitations of the human physique. Rather than engineering mechatronic devices within such anatomical limits, I alter the body to improve the interface between human and machine. My work is focused on synchronizing the efforts of surgeons and mechatronic engineers to enable co-development of body and machine, in pursuit of bionic performance that is superior to what is possible with mechatronics alone. In this seminar, I will present the Agonist-antagonist Myoneural Interface (AMI), a new approach to limb amputation surgery and myoelectric control that enables bi-directional neural communication of joint position, speed, and torque between a prosthetic limb and the human nervous system. I will show data highlighting the potential of the AMI to improve volitional prosthetic control, preserve essential reflexes, and facilitate a patient’s embodiment of their prosthetic limb. I will also discuss additional applications in which enhanced human anatomy can be leveraged for new solutions to long-standing problems in the field of physical rehabilitation and human augmentation.

Tyler Clites builds human cyborgs. After graduating from Harvard in 2014 with a B.S. in Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering, Tyler earned his PhD in 2018 from the Harvard/MIT program in Health Sciences and Technology. As a postdoc in the Biomechatronics Group (Professor Hugh Herr, MIT Media Lab), Tyler’s current research focuses on the development of novel techniques for limb amputation surgery, with the goal of improving the neural and mechanical interfaces between persons with amputation and their prosthetic devices. His work is funded by DARPA and other mechanisms within the Department of Defense. Tyler is an NSF graduate research fellow, and was recently awarded the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for excellence in invention.