The requirements for actuation technology suitable for rehabilitation/wearable robotics are fundamentally different than those for industrial robots. Operation at close vicinity to humans, safety is of the foremost concerns for rehabilitation robotic platforms. In addition, the ability to store and release energy, which does not exist in the industrial actuators, is greatly beneficial for rehabilitation robotics, especially for repetitive tasks such as walking. Furthermore, being able to adjust the mechanical softness in rehabilitation applications is a plus if not a must! Understanding the working principles and mechanical properties of biological actuators, i.e., skeletal muscles, are key in realizing suitable soft actuators for rehabilitation applications. Soft actuators is an emerging field in robotics that has shown promising advantages for rehabilitation applications over traditional robotic platforms.
In this talk, some of the recent advances in developing soft actuators will be discussed and pros and cons of these new soft actuators will be highlighted, towards bringing some insights into the future artificial muscles that can match performances of the skeletal muscles. Finally, some future research directions will be presented that try to understand how humans adjust their mechanical stiffness to cope with different situations in our daily life. Understanding thesis coping mechanism is vital in order to develop new robotic prosthetics/exoskeletons for mobility impaired people and amputees.
Amir Jafari received his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Isfahan University of Technology in Iran in 2002 and 2006, respectively. He received his Ph.D. degree in Robotics from Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in 2011. He then moved to Bio-Inspired Robotic Lab (BIRL) at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) as a postdoctoral researcher, the lab that then moved to University of Cambridge in UK. In 2014. From 2014 to 2016, he was a scientist Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore. From 2016 to 2021, he was an assistant professor with the department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Since September 2021, he is an associate professor with the department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Texas.
Dr. Jafari’s research interests lie primarily in the area of Rehabilitation Robotics, Artificial Muscles and Soft Actuators. He has authored more than 50 scientific articles in prestigious robotic journal and conferences such as IEEE Transaction on Mechatronics, Advanced Functional material and IEEE/ASME International Conference on Robotics and Automations (ICRA). He holds 6 international patents and edited a book entitled as: Soft Robotics in Rehabilitation, that has been published by Elsevier. Dr. Jafari is an associate editor for IEEE Robotic and Automation Letter (IEEE RA-L), a top scientific journal in the field of Robotics. He has been the chair for 3 international robotic workshops in Switzerland (2011), Australia (2018) and the USA (2019). Dr. Jafari’s research works have been cited by other researchers more than 2000 citations according to Google Scholar. He has received more than $1M federal and international research grants, including a prestigious early CAREER award from National Science Foundation (NSF).