Brokoslaw Laschowski, known as “the bionic professor” to his students at the University of Toronto, is making remarkable strides in the field of wearable robotics. As a research scientist at the KITE Research Institute and an assistant professor in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, Laschowski and his team are developing wearable robots empowered by artificial intelligence (AI) that can make independent decisions, much like autonomous cars.

Their groundbreaking work encompasses bionic prosthetic legs, exoskeletons, AI-powered smart glasses, and neural interfaces. Primarily focused on medical applications, Laschowski aims to assist individuals with physical disabilities, striving to design technology that allows seamless human-machine synergy in meaningful ways. By incorporating computer vision, he seeks to merge humans and machines, drawing inspiration from autonomous cars’ use of vision for path planning and control.

Unique to Laschowski’s research is the integration of real-time environment sensing through tiny cameras in their prosthetic legs and exoskeletons. This computer vision-based approach enhances human-robot walking, a concept not widely explored in other labs around the world. Their smart glasses complement these devices by combining computer vision and deep-learning AI to identify environmental features swiftly and accurately. This information is then relayed to the bionic legs, enabling them to adapt to obstacles and changes in terrain.

Laschowski’s passion for assistive technology blossomed during his time at the University of Waterloo, where he collaborated with Paralympic athletes from Team Canada on optimizing wheelchair design using computer simulations. With a PhD in engineering from Waterloo, he joined U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine for a postdoctoral fellowship. Beyond his work in assistive devices, Laschowski’s dedication extends to initiatives supporting others, such as a summer research program for students affected by the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine. As a Ukrainian-Canadian, this cause holds personal significance for him.

The wearable robotics developed in Laschowski’s lab are not confined to the research environment but are designed for real-world impact. He emphasizes the importance of these devices being deployed outside the lab, with the potential to transform the lives of visually impaired individuals or those with mobility impairments. Neural interfaces are also being explored, offering direct control over bionic prosthetic legs and exoskeletons. Laschowski envisions a future where smart glasses can be connected to brain implants, providing bionic vision by bypassing visual impairments and directly interfacing with the brain.

Laschowski believes that humanity is undergoing a technological evolution, and he is committed to driving this transformation. His career goals revolve around using technology to empower the visually impaired to see and enabling the paralyzed to walk. Through advancements in AI and wearable robotics, Laschowski’s work paves the way for a future where technological innovations can profoundly impact the lives of individuals with disabilities.

By Impact Lab