Learn More About Hugh Herr
Hugh Herr isn’t just developing smarter, more capable bionic limbs. He’s redefining human potential and designing a world in which technology erases disability. More than the preeminent expert and technologist in his field, Herr is a living inspiration. His TED talk, which ended with a standing ovation and was viewed nearly 13 million times, is a shining example of Herr’s ability to deliver engaging speeches that lift the hearts and minds of audiences across professions.
When technology meets biology, the interface is rarely flawless; the devices often hinder the bodies they’re designed to help. Herr, a renowned engineer and biophysicist who lost both legs in a climbing incident more than 30 years ago, believes technologists can, and must, do better. Today, as leader of MIT Media Lab’s Biomechatronics Group, he’s building the next generation of robotic prosthetics, sophisticated devices that aid human movement by mimicking nature. Coined “Leader of the Bionic Age” by TIME, Herr and his team are translating tricks the human body uses to move more efficiently into the science and technology that not only restores function to those who’ve lost it, but also enhances and extends their capabilities.
It’s rare for a researcher’s work and personal history to be so entwined. Herr walks on bionic legs his lab designed. As both an avid, accomplished rock climber and a prostheses user, he has direct experience with frustratingly poor prosthetic designs. He also has the drive – an athlete’s competitive spirit – to overcome them. As passionate as he is intense, Herr connects deeply with his audiences and moves them, encouraging everyone to see – and even share – his vision for melding technology with biology.
In addition to his Biomechatronics Group post, Herr is a professor of media arts and science at MIT Media Lab, as well as co-director of the MIT Center for Extreme Bionics. He is the author and co-author of more than 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts and patents chronicling the science and technology behind his many innovations – from computer-controlled artificial knees and active leg exoskeletons to powered ankle-foot prostheses – several of which were recognized as TIME Top Ten Inventions. Other accolades include the 13th Annual Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment; 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.
Herr is the founder of BionX Inc., a company that commercializes the EmPower Ankle-Foot Prosthesis, first in a series of products that will emulate physiological function through electromechanical replacement. Today, the EmPower Ankle-Foot Prosthesis has been clinically shown to be the first leg prosthesis in history to reach human normalization, allowing amputees to walk with normal levels of speed and metabolism as if their legs were biological once again.
Herr’s gripping story has been told in a National Geographic film, Ascent: The Story of Hugh Herr, as well as in episodes and articles featured in CNN, The Economist, Discover and Nature. He earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering at MIT and his doctorate in biophysics at Harvard University.
Hugh Herr is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.
Bionic Innovation: How to Design A Fearless Culture of Intense Innovation by Leveraging Diverse Thinking
To stay ahead of increasingly aggressive competitors and drive long-term growth, organizations must be exceptionally creative. The key is to make sure each department in your organization has a culture that fosters innovation. As head of the MIT Center for Extreme Bionics, Professor Hugh Herr is expert at assembling and leveraging diverse groups of the best thinkers to form highly creative teams that continuously and successfully innovate. He consistently achieves this by deliberately including people of different races, genders, ages, backgrounds, and physical and intellectual abilities in the process. Based on his inspiring life story and experiences at MIT, Professor Herr shares vivid examples of extreme innovation that occur when you remove boundaries and fear from the process. Participants walk away understanding the value of diversity and how to design and promote a fearlessly innovative culture so their teams and organizations can compete and drive growth – with bionic power.
The New Era of Extreme Bionics
Society is at the threshold of a new age when machines will no longer be separate, lifeless mechanisms, but will instead be intimate extensions of the human body. Such a merging of body and machine will not only improve the quality of life for disabled people, but will allow persons with normal physiologies to experience augmented capabilities – cognitively, emotionally and physically. There soon will be a world where technology will merge with our bodies to forever change our concept of human capability. Hugh Herr features research work from MIT’s Center for Extreme Bionics that is blurring the distinction between “able-bodied” and “disabled,” demonstrating technologies at the neural-digital interface. These new research initiatives are capable of addressing a plethora of conditions currently at clinical impasses, from optogenetic approaches to treat blindness to the development of smart prostheses that can emulate – and even exceed the capabilities of biological limbs. Herr believes that through an ever-increasing technological sophistication, human disability will largely be eliminated in this 21st century, setting the stage for innovations that will ultimately benefit all humanity.
Hugh Herr’s New Prosthetic Tech Uses Magnets
December 30, 2022
Magnetic Sensors Track Muscle Length
October 25, 2022
'Augmented' Review: More Than Man, Thanks to Machines
February 22, 2022
NOVA: Augmented (with Video)
February 17, 2022
10 Questions for Hugh Herr (Video)
January 20, 2022
Mind and Magnet
October 26, 2021
A New MIT Research Center Wants to Meld Humans With Machines
September 25, 2021
New Bionics Center Established At MIT With $24 Million Gift
September 23, 2021
Magnets Could Offer Better Control of Prosthetic Limbs
August 18, 2021
April 27, 2021
How a Brushless Motor Aids a Prosthetic and its User
September 23, 2020
Run Faster, Think Better: Hugh Herr on the Future of Bionics
February 25, 2020
Making Ideas Into Reality at MIT's "Future Factory"
August 4, 2019
New Bionic Limbs for Amputees
December 20, 2018
Brain-Controlled Bionic Limbs Developed at MIT
December 17, 2018
The Pace Maker
August 1, 2018
When Your Body Becomes Eligible for an Upgrade
July 15, 2017
The Prosthetic of the Future
November 21, 2016
Hugh Herr Wants to Build a More Perfect Human
October 3, 2016
The New Bionic Man: How Hugh Herr is Changing Lives
August 1, 2016
Hugh Herr on the Future of Bionics
October 29, 2015
The Body Electric
October 21, 2014
Advanced Bionic Limbs Could Redefine Disabilities
April 19, 2014
Hugh Herr, Bionic Man
March 20, 2012
The Double Amputee Who Designs Better Limbs
August 10, 2011