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The MIT Research Center is currently studying the fusion between the human body and advanced technology such as brain-computer interfaces and robotic exoskeletons. It has the ambitious goal to develop systems that can restore function for people with neurological and physical disabilities.
According to an MIT announcement, the K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics was established by a $24million donation from Lisa Yang, a philanthropist. Although it is unlikely that the center's ambitious goals of rebuilding lost limbs and restoring neural function will be achieved, the donation does set the stage and brings together MIT faculty from different disciplines to work towards a common goal. It could also serve as a catalyst for research in disability tech.
Hugh Herr, MIT Media Lab professor and a double amputee, will lead the new center. Hugh is also a pioneer in robotic prosthetics. Herr stated in the MIT announcement that he views this new initiative as a significant step towards eliminating all physical disabilities.
Herr stated that the world needs to be free from the handicaps imposed by current technology. It is essential that we continue to work towards a technological future where disability is not a daily reality. The Yang Center for Bionics is a wonderful initiative that will improve the human experience for many.
According to the announcement, the three main goals of the new research center for faculty at MIT will be the following:
The first step is to create what MIT calls a digital nervous systems, which are tools that stimulate muscles that have been disconnected from the central nervous. This is remarkably similar with a unrelated neural implant that is currently being tested in humans.
The center also aims to improve exoskeleton technology in order to allow people with weak muscles to move naturally. It also plans to create new bionic limbs that will restore a natural sense of touch.
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