Testing Extremes of Human Motor Control to Advance Robotics

Dagmar Sternad, university distinguished professor of biology, electrical and computer engineering and physics, and her research group at Northeastern’s Action Lab are looking at the extreme human movement to understand how humans manipulate complex objects, like whips.


This article originally appeared on Northeastern Global News. It was published by Alena Kuzub. Main photo: Iron converted into talc-like powder can burn under certain conditions just like coal, making it a potential green energy source. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Why do robots need to use whips? Researchers test the extremes of human motor control to advance robotics

On any given day, Richards Hall on Northeastern University’s Boston campus is filled with the sound of students’ shuffling feet or energetic class discussions, but this week you might have heard something else: a whip cracking.

The man responsible for that distinct cracking sound is Jack Lepiarz, aka Jack the Whipper, a trained whip performer who has become famous on social media.

As part of their work on human movement control, Dagmar Sternad, university distinguished professor of biology, electrical and computer engineering and physics, and her research group at Northeastern’s Action Lab are looking at the movements of experts like Lepiarz, as well as whip cracking novices, to understand how humans manipulate complex objects, like whips.

“The goal in our lab is to study human behavior in complex tasks that go beyond the simple movement tasks that have been studied in movement neuroscience like simple point-to-point reaching,” says Mahdiar Edraki, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student in the Action Lab. “Yes, you can understand a lot about such experimentally controlled movements, but they don’t give you much insight about what humans do in the real world. That’s where our lab comes in, and this [research] is a great example of it.”

Read the full story at Northeastern Global News

Related Faculty: Dagmar Sternad

Related Departments:Electrical & Computer Engineering