Ivan Vujaklija: Bionic technologies can be the key to greater personal independence
Promoting health technology allows us to increase inclusiveness for people with reduced mobility.
My research group develops technology for different healthcare needs. We particularly focus on technical solutions to help people who have lost a limb or have challenges with motor function.
For example, we study how a prosthesis can be controlled by electrical signals generated by the user's muscles and nerves. The system ‘listens’ to the body’s signals and converts them into prosthetic movements and gestures. In the future, our aim is to provide bionic limbs that work just like a person’s own hand or foot.
More personalised, accessible and affordable healthcare
The loss of a limb or the ability to walk makes it difficult for a person to function independently in daily life. I hope that my work will improve inclusiveness for people with disabilities in society. Promoting technology allows us to provide more personalised, accessible and affordable healthcare for individuals and society as a whole.
The technology we develop is very intimate – it’s close to the person and may even become a part of them by replacing a missing part of their body. That’s why it’s so important to involve users in the development work, and why we collaborate closely with clinical researchers, doctors and patients. As a researcher, I find it very rewarding when patients experiment with the solutions we’ve developed and give us their honest opinions.
I come from a family of doctors and engineers. Although my interests lie in science and technology, I was always interested in working with healthcare applications. After graduating as an electrical engineer, I spent a few years working in product development at Ottobock Healthcare – the world's largest prosthetic manufacturer.
However, I often found myself considering larger questions that concerned the entire field. This encouraged me to return to university as a researcher. I’ve found my place in the academic world, as it gives me platform for influencing and developing things in a way that I see fit.
Favourable environment for developing bionics
I started working as an Aalto University professor in late 2018. One of the reasons I ended up in Finland and at Aalto was the fact that this is a very favourable environment for developing bionics. We have top expertise in technology and healthcare, and a long history of cooperation between engineers and clinical researchers.
I’m looking forward to being involved in developing and advancing research and education in this field in Finland. It’s great to see how technology, art and design students are engaged in our courses, as these topics require competence and vision from many different disciplines.
Ivan Vujaklija, Assistant Professor in Embedded Systems in Biomedicine, Head of Bionic and Rehabilitation Engineering research group at Aalto University
Photo: Timothy Hasenoehrl