Category Archives: Engineering the Human-Technology Interface

Scheutz Talks Robot Cognition with The Conversation

Professor Matthias Scheutz (CS) wrote about robot cognition and morality in a piece for The Conversation called “Why robots need to be able to say ‘No.’”

“In general, robots should never perform illegal actions, nor should they perform legal actions that are not desirable. Hence, they will need representations of laws, moral norms and even etiquette in order to be able to determine whether the outcomes of an instructed action, or even the action itself, might be in violation of those principles,”  Scheutz writes.

 

Kemmerling Talks 3D Modeling and Mechanics in The Conversation

Assistant Professor Erica Kemmerling, Mechanical Engineering

Assistant Professor Erica Kemmerling, Mechanical Engineering

Assistant Professor Erica Kemmerling writes for The Conversation about fabricating physical models to study how cardiovascular devices affect blood flow. Now 3D printing technology is advanced enough to build realistic models of human blood vessels, and pulsatile-flow pumps can drive flow through these vessels to mimic the heart’s pumping. Since the vessel models are synthetic, there are no ethical issues associated with damaging them to take flow measurements.

New Scientist Interviews Jacob and Yuksel about BACh System

Computer Science Professor Rob Jacob and doctoral student Beste Filiz Yuksel’s BACh System — Brain Automated Chorales – helps beginners learn to play Bach chorales on piano by measuring how hard their brains are working. It only offers a new line of music to learn when the brain isn’t working too hard, avoiding information overload. BACh estimates the brain’s workload using functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), a technique that measures oxygen levels in the brain. Read more of the story in New Scientist magazine.

Their paper “Learn Piano with BACh“, including co-authors Remco Chang, Kurt Oleson, Lane Harrison, Evan Peck, and Dan Afergan, won the CHI2016 Best Paper Award.

Hassoun Wins Ideas Competition Award

Professor Soha Hassoun, department chair of Computer Science

Professor and Chair Soha Hassoun was one of three recipients of an 2015 Ideas Competition award. The Ideas Competition, hosted by Tufts Gordon Institute, is designed for early-stage business ideas. Hassoun’s project “TRAG: At-Home Diagnostics System and App for Tracking the Gut Microbiota” seeks to allow individuals to easily and frequently track and assess the impact of diet, including prebiotics and probiotics, on the gut microbiota. “The global market for prebiotics and probiotics is expected to grow steadily in the next 5 years,” says Hassoun. “There is currently no sure way of predicting and tracking the benefits of these products.”
Learn more about the Ideas Competition and enter the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition.

Messner Speaks with Metro About Driverless Trains

Professor Bill Messner

On December 13, 2015, Professor Bill Messner spoke with the the Boston Metro about the possibility of driverless trains in the public transportation system, commenting on the recent “Ghost Train” mishap where a Red Line train left a T station without its driver. “From a technology standpoint, it’s certainly doable. It’s a question of expense, really, and of course public acceptance of autonomous trains.” Messner commented that the MBTA is not a good case for “robotic retrofitting” because it was never designed to be an autonomous system.

Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences Launched

Matthias Scheutz

Matthias Scheutz

Researchers from Tufts University and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) are joining forces to advance our understanding of how people think, function, and interact in demanding environments. This new center represents a collaborative partnership in cognitive science research co-directed and co-managed by researchers from both institutions.

“We hope to increase understanding of how individuals and teams adapt and sustain performance in high-stakes environments,” says Holly A. Taylor, a professor of psychology at Tufts School of Arts and Sciences, an adjunct professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and lead investigator from the Tufts team.

Matthias Scheutz, a professor of computer science at Tufts School of Engineering and co-principal investigator on the center grant, brings yet another dimension to the research when attempting to understand how people interact not only with each other in teams, but with potential robotic partners.

“In the same scenario of searching for an injured person, imagine now that a robot is the navigator,” says Scheutz, “and the rest of its human teammates are interacting with that robot from a safe distance out of the fray. How might that team work together in a high-stress environment? How could we improve that collaboration?” These questions need answering as robots become an ever-increasing presence on the battlefield and in everyday life, adds Scheutz who directs the Human-Robot Interaction Lab.

Read more about the launch of the center.

 Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences

 

Tufts University Alumni Association 2014 Senior Award Honorees

Each year, the Tufts University Alumni Association (TUAA) recognizes members of the senior class for academic achievement, participation in campus and community activities, and leadership. Twelve students are chosen from a pool of nominees for the TUAA Senior Award. This year’s cohort of Senior Award Honorees includes two engineering students: Briana Bouchard and Laura Burns.

Briana BouchardBriana Bouchard will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. Bouchard served as Corporate Relations Chair and Publicity Chair for Tufts Society for Women Engineers, Tufts Admissions Tour Guide and Engineering Panelist, Senior Representative and Academic Chair for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Residential Assistant for Tufts University Office of Residential Life. As a researcher, she designed a medical device to assist in the insertion of IV catheters in babies and children, was part of a team that designed an award winning audio speaker, and has researched the use of silk for breast implants for women who have had mastectomies.


Laura BurnsLaura Burns will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering. At Tufts, Burns was a Stern Family Scholar, was on the Dean’s List all semesters, a member of Tau Beta Pi (Engineering National Honor Society), President and Board Member of the Tufts University Engineering Student Council, Secretary and Board Member for Tufts University Society for Women Engineers, Captain of the Varsity Swim Team, and a volunteer at Tufts University Admissions Office. Burns was a research assistant in Assistant Professor Lauren Black’s Lab, where she worked with tissue engineering of cardiac tissue and design of an optical device to measure the thickness of delicate tissues.

Kaplan’s Team On Board for Continued Regenerative Medicine Research

Today, the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine announced that the second phase of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) project will move ahead with involvement from researchers on Stern Family Professor David Kaplan’s biomedical engineering team. The five-year, $75 million federally funded project focuses on applying regenerative medicine to battlefield injuries.

Anthony Atala, M.D., director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, is the lead investigator for AFIRM-II. He will direct a consortium of more than 30 academic institutions, including Tufts School of Engineering, and industry partners.

In the first phase of AFIRM, which began in 2008, Kaplan’s group looked at soft tissue reconstruction and peripheral nerve repair research. During this phase, Kaplan will focus on muscle regeneration.

Proof of Concept Robotic Programming Lends A Stress-Free Hand

Summer Scholar Chris Shinn, E15, hopes to reduce musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace through human-robot interaction.

The intended application is in diagnostic laboratories to reduce repetitive motion injuries. Currently lab techs must open and close hundreds of jars every day. Every year thousands of man-hours are lost due to such injuries, and costing employers and employees alike millions of dollars. While there’s plenty of room for improving the speed, Shinn’s work demonstrates a proof of concept for human-friendly robots such as Baxter to use tools to extend their utility and to integrate them into the work flow of laboratories and similar workplaces.

This video from Chris Shinn in the Human Factors program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering shows ongoing research with the Baxter robot. Located in the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO), Baxter opens and closes a specimen jar using a tool to overcome positioning uncertainty in its “hands.” Another special adapter on the other hand is employed to operate a pipette.

Jacob Comments on Interface Technology for Tech Review

In an article published in MIT Tech Review, Professor Rob Jacob in the Department of Computer Science commented on a new 3D interface called “Leap Motion” that allows users to gesture to interact with their computers.

According to the company, since the launch of the product in late July, users have downloaded more than 1 million apps that connect with the technology.

MIT Tech Review reports, “Yet after one month and a raft of ‘meh’ product reviews citing problems like difficulty controlling apps and tired arms, the sardine-can-sized gadget—which connects to a computer’s USB port and tracks the movement of your hands and fingers as they move above its sensor—seems to have lost its steam.”

“Things involving human-computer interfaces often move extremely slowly. It may take a while before the Leap reaches its full potential,” Jacob, told Tech Review.

This story was first reported in MIT TechReview, August 29, 2013, by Rachel Metz.