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Hugh Herr

Biomechanics Pioneer
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Biography

Hugh Herr directs the Biomechatronics group at The MIT Media Lab. His research program seeks to advance technologies that promise to accelerate the merging of body and machine, including device architectures that resemble the body's musculoskeletal design, actuator technologies that behave like muscle, and control methodologies that exploit principles of biological movement. His methods encompass a diverse set of scientific and technological disciplines, from the science of biomechanics and biological movement control to the design of biomedical devices for the treatment of human physical disability.

Dr. Herr's research accomplishments in science and technology have already made a significant impact on physically challenged people. The Variable-Damper Knee Prosthesis has recently been commercialized by ssur Inc., and is now benefiting transfemoral amputees throughout the world. In addition, the Active Ankle-Foot Orthosis is now in the process of being commercialized and has the potential for improving the quality of life of millions of stroke patients within the US alone.

Herr is the founder and director of The Herr Institute for Human Rehabilitation in Cambridge, MA. His research interests are in the areas of development of human assistive technologies, mammalian locomotory control, tissue engineering and robotics. The purposes of the Herr Institute for Human Rehabilitation are: to develop assistive technologies for the elderly and the disabled; to develop manufacturing processes that reduce the costs associated with the production of assistive technologies; and to promote the distribution of assistive technologies throughout the world.

When Dr. Herr was a junior in high school, his lower legs were frostbitten severely from a mountaineering accident and had to be amputated inches below the knees. This experience spurred his interest in inventing orthotic and prosthetic appliances. He designed special legs for himself so that he could continue to climb mountains and has devoted his life to assisting the elderly and the disabled through his research. Herr has been featured on the Discovery Channel for his development of prosthetic devices that increase human endurance to rock climb, reduce metabolic energy requirements to cross country ski, reduce stress on the spine during heavy lifting and increase the endurance of physically disabled persons in climbing stairs.

Herr's work impacts a number of academic communities. He has given numerous invited and plenary lectures at international conferences and colloquia, including the IVth World Congress of Biomechanics, the International Conference on Advanced Prosthetics, the National Assembly of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the Highlands Forum XXII (Life Sciences, Complexity, and National Security), and the TEDMED International Conference. He is Associate Editor for the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, and has served as a reviewer for the Journal of Experimental Biology, the International Journal of Robotics Research, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, and the Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences.

Dr. Herr has been invited to participate in joint funding proposals from other universities and corporations, and has served on research review panels including the National Institute of Health, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. His work has been featured by various national and international media, including Scientific American Frontiers, Technology Review, National Geographic, and the History Channel.

Topics

Ascent: The Story of Hugh Herr

Technology & the Human Spirit: Merging Body & Machine

The Limits of Human Performance

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