Congratulations to Tamar Makin on receiving her ERC Consolidator Award. The funding supports mid-career researchers and helps them consolidate their teams and conduct pioneering research on topics and with methods of their choosing.
Tamar said: “Robotic motor augmentation is a new research domain that employs methodologies originally designed for purely restorative purposes (e.g., prosthetic limbs) to extend the physical abilities of any individual, with enormous opportunities for improving both productivity and healthcare. But considering these technologies are human-centred, the question remains – how can we best learn to control a body part that we’ve never had before? With the generous funding made available by the ERC, we hope to being addressing this wonderfully complicated question”
Award title: Fundamentals for Motor Control of Robotic Augmentation (AUGMENT)
AUGMENT is centred around the unique challenge of controlling motor augmentation technology. We are witnessing the rise of a novel class of technologies, designed to resemble human limbs in their functionalities. These extra fingers and arms are robotic devices that are designed to extend the user’s motor capabilities (hereafter X-devices). Beyond the traditional substitution of missing functions, X-devices can be further exploited to provide additional motor functions to already fully functional individuals. But what cognitive and physiological resources could we utilise to control extra limbs, in addition to our own? The goal of AUGMENT is to harness basic understanding of human motor learning and control to guide successful technological development of X-devices in abled and disabled individuals. An urgent question is how to provide motor commands and somatosensory feedback to and from the X-device without restricting the cognitive and motor control of the biological limbs. I will address this by first identifying the neurocognitive mechanisms best suited for successful X-devices motor control. Then I will investigate the optimal integration of somatosensory information from the X-device to afford intuitive and transferable motor skill learning. Finally, I will provide innovative solutions for increasing the functionality of disabled individuals in daily life, beyond traditional substitution, using novel X-devices. By identifying and solving the fundamental sensorimotor human-device interface challenges across diverse user groups and functional needs, AUGMENT will be crucial for the realisation of motor augmentation and other related technologies that aim to put the user at the centre of robot control, design and development.