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While there exist a number of mechanically sophisticated exoskeletons, prostheses, and assistive robots, with articulations similar to those of the intact human arm and hand, these devices remain limited in their ability to augment human dexterity and safely interact with human users and collaborators. In particular, due to the limits of conventional sensing, robots remain locked in industrial cages, prosthesis users can often modulate only a single degree of freedom, and when human–device interactions do occur, we have almost no understanding of the resulting physiological impacts on the user’s musculoskeletal system.
In this talk, I will discuss my work addressing these dual problems of device capability and safety by leveraging two novel signal classes — muscle deformation, as measured via ultrasound, and vibration, as measured via acoustic myography (AMG) — to probe individual muscle forces, which cannot currently be measured noninvasively but are key to understanding musculoskeletal dynamics during dexterous motion. Specifically, I will address our progress in precisely characterizing these signals and their relationship to muscle output force, and in measuring them in real time, paving the way for future research on the extraction of multiple independent signals for high-dimensional device control and enhanced overall understanding of the joint human–machine dynamical system, both healthy and pathological.
Laura Hallock is a final-year PhD student in the EECS department at UC Berkeley, advised by Ruzena Bajcsy in the Human-Assistive Robotic Technologies (HART) Lab. Her research focuses on improving system identification of human arm dynamics using multiple sensing modalities, including ultrasound and acoustic myography, to generate physics-based models applicable to assistive device design, medical diagnostics, and studies of motor control. Prior to joining the graduate program, she received her SB in EECS from MIT, where she worked on neuromuscular modeling for lower-limb prostheses in the MIT Media Lab’s Biomechatronics Group. She is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and a selectee of the 2020 Rising Stars in Mechanical Engineering and 2018 NextProf Nexus workshops.