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Abstract: Robotic systems hold extensive promise as assistive technology, to augment the capabilities of both healthy users and those with motor disabilities. At the same time, assistive robots are hampered by insufficient sensing and modeling of the human systems with which they interact, and often fail to account for users’ individual capability and intent. In this talk, I will present my work leveraging sensing and modeling technologies — drawn from both classical robot control and biomechanical science domains — in new ways to perform better system identification of human dynamics, enabling the creation of more capable assistive devices and better, more granular characterization of physical human–robot interactions and the human neuromotor system in general.
Bio: Dr. Laura A. Hallock is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception (GRASP) Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, where she works to develop human-aware collaborative robot manipulators and rehabilitation robots. Specifically, her work leverages multiple sensing modalities (including ultrasound, surface electromyography, and motion capture) to better evaluate human capability and intent, enabling safer, more intuitive, and more personalized physical human–robot interactions. Prior to her postdoctoral work, Laura received her PhD in EECS from UC Berkeley, where her graduate thesis pioneered the use of ultrasound-measured muscle deformation as a measure of output force, enabling novel ultrasound-driven models of human arm dynamics applicable to assistive device design, medical diagnostics, and studies of motor control. Previously, she received her SB in EECS from MIT, where she worked on neuromuscular modeling for lower-limb prostheses in the MIT Media Lab’s Biomechatronics Group. For her research, teaching and mentorship efforts, she was selected as a 2022 Rising Star in Engineering in Health, a 2020 Rising Star in Mechanical Engineering, and a 2018 NextProf Nexus cohort member. She was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and recipient of the UC Berkeley EECS Chair’s Graduate Award and an Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award from the UC Berkeley Graduate Division.