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Hugh Herr

speaker location icon U.S.

Director of Biomechatronics Research Group and co-director of the Center for Extreme Bionics at the MIT Media lab

Leading Bionic Limbs Innovator

Multiple Award-winning Scientist, Futurist and Innovator including the 13th Annual Heinz Award for Technology

Hugh Herr is the director of the Biomechatronics research group and co-director of the Center for Extreme Bionics at the MIT Media lab, where the revolutionary build of bionic limbs is being created. Herr’s work has been recognised to redefine the world; where technology erases disability. 

Herr’s story intertwined with his research well, showcasing the possibilities and accomplishments of combining technology with biology. He is building the next generation of robotic prosthetics that will perform natural human movement. Herr was considered a rock-climbing prodigy. However, whilst attempting to summit Mount Washington in New Hampshire, he was caught in a blizzard. This resulted in severe frostbite which led to the amputation of both his legs below the knees. He walks on bionic legs his lab designed.

Coined “Leader of the Bionic Age” by TIME, Herr connects with his audiences deeply, encouraging them to share and understand his vision of a future where biology and technology can play a revolutionary role. His TED talk in 2014, “The New Bionics that let us run, climb and dance”, ended with a standing ovation with over seven million views. He is the author and co-author of more than 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts that range from computer-controlled artificial knees and active leg exoskeletons to powered ankle-foot prosthesis – several of them have been recognised as TIME Top Ten Inventions. 

Other accolades include the 13th Annual Heinz Award for Technology; the Prince Salman Award for Disability Research; the Smithsonian American ingenuity Award in Technology; the 14th Innovator of the Year Award; the 41st Inventor of the Year Award; and the 2016 Princess of Asturias Award for Technical & Scientific Research. He has a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering at MIT and his doctorate in biophysics at Harvard University. Herr is also the founder of BionXInc., a company that commercialises the EmPower Ankle-Foot Prosthesis, which is the first in a series of products that will emulate physiological function through electromechanical replacement. The EmPower Ankle-Foot Prosthesis has been clinically shown to be the first leg prosthesis in history to reach human normalisation. As a result of this, amputees are able to walk with normal levels of speed. Herr’s own experience has been told in a National Geographic film, Ascent: The Story of Hugh Herr, as well as articles and episodes featured on CNN, The Economist, and Discover and Nature. 


TED TALK | The New Bionics that let us run, climb and dance


[youtube https://www.ted.com/talks/hugh_herr_the_new_bionics_that_let_us_run_climb_and_dance]


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