System Dynamics: From Cars to Humans
What does a stroke rehabilitation robot have in common with your car’s electronic power steering? They are both “biomechatronic” systems that integrate mechanical, electronic and biological functionality, and perform best when these elements are properly designed and tuned for the individual human user.
Since the vast majority of hospitalizations for major injury in Canada are due to falls and car accidents, intelligent biomechatronic systems hold great potential to improve Canadians’ quality of life by minimizing the occurrence of these tragedies and helping victims recover when they do happen. Future applications could include injury rehabilitation, sports training, driver assist systems, and even powered exoskeletons.
Building truly effective biomechatronic devices requires integrated, dynamic models of both the human and physical device, so designs can be customized and perfected in computer simulations. This minimizes expensive prototyping and risky testing on humans.
Dr. John McPhee, Canada Research Chair in Biomechatronic System Dynamics, is an expert in system dynamics. His research team is developing new modelling approaches to integrate dynamic models for mechatronic and biomechanical systems. These models will be used to design and prototype new assistive devices, which will be managed by model-based controllers that use commands from our own nervous systems.
McPhee’s research will enable rehabilitation robots that can exercise stroke patients’ arms and legs; assistive devices that help the elderly and infirm to stand and walk; sports training systems for amateur and high-performance athletes; and power steering systems that automatically adjust to different drivers, be they teenagers or grandparents.