By Andy Choi
An $18.5 million grant has been awarded by the National Science Foundation for establishment of a new Engineering Research Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering at the University of Washington (UW). Researchers at the centre will develop "neurobotics", which is development of robotic replacement limbs that can be controlled with the mind.
The Neurobotics Lab's prosthetic hand is a close replica of an actual human hand. Researchers are working to integrate it with the human nervous system.
UW will collaborate with the University of British Columbia, San Diego State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Tokyo, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Southwestern College, La Jolla Bioengineering Institute, the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Intel, Microsoft and Lockheed Martin. The partnership will bring together industry and university researchers to accelerate innovations and also help students. Seattle would become the research and education centre for 'neurobotics'.
The director of the new Engineering Research Center and UW computer science professor, Yoky Matsuoka, said that fast mechanical lower-limb prostheses and chips that can interface with neural systems and stimulate the associated muscles already exist. He added that the research center would increase the control and flexibility of the devices by using neural and sensory feedback. The researchers would build new robotic systems, design and test wearable and implanted prosthetic devices, and perform mathematical analysis of neural signals in the body.
UW will lead the centre which will be based at the Russell Hall. The ultimate aim of the researchers would be to control implantable prosthetics through brain signals.