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Speaker Hugh Herr used his scientific expertise and relentless imagination to turn personal tragedy into a beacon of hope for millions. A double amputee himself, Herr is the world’s leading expert on bionics, and uses prostheses designed in his own lab. Events that explore the future of human-machine interaction find their cornerstones in Herr’s eye-opening keynote speeches.
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Great inventors stand on the shoulders of giants; motivational speaker Hugh Herr stands on bionic legs that he invented. An unforgettable keynote speaker, Hugh Herr offers a bold and inspiring vision of the future.
Hugh Herr is Director of MIT’s Biomechatronics Research Group and co-director of its Center for Extreme Bionics. His groundbreaking work on bionic prostheses led Time to dub him the Leader of the Bionic Age. More than 13 million viewers have enjoyed his 2014 TED talk, “The New Bionics That Let Us Run, Climb, and Dance.”
Herr’s pioneering work has a deeply personal aspect. An avid rock climber, he was caught in a blizzard while scaling New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, widely considered the most treacherous small mountain in the world. Severe frostbite set in, and Herr lost both his legs below the knees. He now walks on bionic legs designed by his own lab. Herr’s story was dramatized in the 2002 National Geographic film Ascent: The Story of Hugh Herr.
In 2007, Herr founded iWalk, now known as BionX, to commercialize electromechanical products that emulate physical movement. The company received funding and support from leading investment firms and also the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Time has named several of Herr’s AI-powered prosthetic designs to its annual lists of top ten inventions. Herr has been also awarded the Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy, and Employment; the Smithsonian’s American Ingenuity Award in Technology; the Prince Salman Award for Disability Research; and the 2016 Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research. Additionally, he has written more than 150 peer-reviewed articles detailing his research, and holds more than 100 patents.
Society is at the threshold of a new age when machines will no longer be separate, lifeless mechanisms, but will instead be intimate extensions of the human body. Such a merging of body and machine will not only improve the quality of life for disabled people, but will allow persons with normal physiologies to experience augmented capabilities – cognitively, emotionally and physically. There soon will be a world where technology will merge with our bodies to forever change our concept of human capability. Hugh Herr features research work from MIT’s Center for Extreme Bionics that is blurring the distinction between “able-bodied” and “disabled,” demonstrating technologies at the neural-digital interface. These new research initiatives are capable of addressing a plethora of conditions currently at clinical impasses, from optogenetic approaches to treat blindness to the development of smart prostheses that can emulate – and even exceed the capabilities of biological limbs. Herr believes that through an ever-increasing technological sophistication, human disability will largely be eliminated in this 21st century, setting the stage for innovations that will ultimately benefit all humanity.
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