SAN JOSE, Calif. – Hugh Herr is director of biomechatronics at the Media Lab at Massachussets Institute of Technology. He also happens to be a double lower-extremity amputee.
During a keynote presentation Herr demonstrated for the audience at the DESIGN West exhibition the various ways in which technology has the power to heal and rehabilitate broken bodies. Herr conducts research in this area with a goal of rehabilitating individuals that have lost limbs but also to augment physical capabilities. Herr's talk was especially meaningful after the bombing in Boston that was responsible for 14 people losing limbs.
Herr also revealed during his talk that such work does not only apply to physical capability but also to cognitive and emotional abilities. Herr is also a walking illustration of his vision and line of research.
"I am standing on a lot of titanium, carbon and silicon," he said with pants rolled up and showing his prosthetic limbs. He lost his lower legs to frostbite in a climbing accident in 1982. Subsequently he was motivated to conduct research in biomechatronics and also developed his own prosthetic adaptions. "Eventually I was able to climb at higher standard than I had before the accident," said Herr.
Hugh Herr lost both of his legs below the knee to frostbite.
Herr went on to illustrate a number of areas of promising research that he expects will have an effect on the human condition in this century. The first topic was optogenetics where he discussed the ability to use electromagnetic stimulation of specifically selected regions of the brain.