2019 Human Fusions Review Strong Growth in 2019 - Looking forward to 2020

As 2019 comes to an end and a new decade begins, it is time to reflect on the past year, growth of the HFi, and the bright future that spreads before us. Some (and only some, not all) of the accomplishments over the past year are highlighted in the following stories. We have been very active and made significant advances. In 2020, we seek to capture several new start-up funds, new project funding, and administrative support to accelerate these activities as we take off. My deepest thanks to the many of you that have driven many projects in 2019. I look forward to increasing the opportunities for everyone in 2020. (The HFi Vision, Mission, and Core Values are listed at the bottom of this page.)

HFI workshops

  • Three half-day workshops in 2018-19 as part of NSF planning grant.
  • The "Visual Notes" below captures many of the themes and common views of the HFi team. Average group commitment of 8.6 out of 10!
  • Identified drivers and barriers to HFi activity. We have been working on three specific barriers: Alignment with Institutional Priorities; Focal Projects; and Communications.
"Visual Notes" from April 2019 Planning Workshop. (Click on image for larger view.)

Alignment: Directly addresses "Pathway 2: Humanity-Technology Relationship" of CWRU strategic plan. Also aligns with the other three pathways of the strategic plan.

Focal Projects: See activities listed below for the many opportunities to participate. Our most significant group unifying activity will be the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition (see below).

Communications: Actively working with CWRU Univ Marketing and Communications to develop an official site. Launch expected early 2020. Twitter account @HumanFusions.

Society for Neuroscience - Social Issues round Table

Human Fusions: Ethical and Social Issues Raised by Neural-Digital Interfaces

Chicago, IL, November 2019: Among the 14,000 papers and symposiums at the conference, this session was chosen as one of only forty to be featured in a press conference. The session featured seven members of Human Fusions.

You can watch videos of the session here.

  • Dustin Tyler (Session Chair), Case Western Res Univ
  • Douglas Weber, Univ Pittsburgh
  • Brandon Prestwood
  • Nick Zingale, Cleveland State Univ
  • David Hodge, Tuskegee Univ
  • Emma-Jane Alexander, Univ of Wyoming
  • Sue Rivera, Case Western Res Univ

January 30th, 2020

Cleveland Premier followed by a panel discussion with

A professional film explores the connection between humans and technology for Human Health (one of the three pillars of HFi). The film debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. It will have its Cleveland premiere on Jan 30, 2020 at the Playhouse Center. (See trailer below or here.) The showing will be followed by a panel discussion of the researchers featured in the film.

  • Bolu Ajiboye, Ph.D.
  • Robert Kirch, Ph.D.
  • Jonathan Miller, M.D.
  • Dustin Tyler, Ph.D.

We hope that many of you can join us at this event and promote the Human Fusions Institute. Get your tickets here.

Building the infrastructure

We secured funding to supported and have started preliminary development of the software and communication infrastructure to connect humans anywhere in the world to arbitrary technology anywhere in the world.

Team: Dustin Tyler, Michael Fu, Kiju Lee, Ken Loparo, Pan Li, Emily Graczyk, Leah Roldan, Michael Pallotta, James Huang, Thomas Shkurti

NeuroReality goes Live for all

NeuroReality is the new future enabled by HFi. Our subjects have had and demonstrated the value of NeuroReality for more than seven years. This year, HFi created the first prototype NR system that anyone can try. Look for opportunities to demo this first-of-its-kind system in 2020.

Team: Michael Fu, Emily Graczyk, Chris Zorman, Luis Mesias Flores, and Leah Roldan

Metamorphic Engineering

Imagine that you could bend a piece of iron as though it were putty to form any shape that you wanted. Imagine that manufacturing machines are an extension of, or even a part of, your body. Imagine you have the strength, power, and precision to form the 3rd-wave, human-in-the-loop manufacturing systems. A proposal to do just this is being submitted by CWRU to the Keck Foundation for consideration in 2020.

Team: John Lewandowski (PI) and Co-I's Ken Loparo, Mark Griswold, Dustin Tyler, Pan Li, Jennifer Carter, and Brian Gran.

Removing War fighter from Danger

The most dangerous job in the military is being an Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialist. As if the danger of a single mistake potentially maiming or killing is not enough, these highly trained specialists are working in hostile environments and being shot at while doing their job. We envision a symbiotic relationship between the specialist and the robot to remove them physically from danger, but still bring their skills directly to the theater. Let's move upstream from creating solutions to amputation and rather prevent the injury causing amputation in the first place.

Team: Dustin Tyler, Bob Michaels, Leah Roldan

Anywhere, Anytime

We completed the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition entry (Link to competition announcement site). Announcements of accepted teams will be announced early January. Be on the lookout and keep your fingers virtually crossed.

This project will be a focal effort and is the epitome of all the efforts within HFi. Everyone should be able to find a place to be involved. Contact Dustin for more information and to be engaged.

There is already a large team active from CWRU (too many to list) and from several universities. Partners include Nicholas Zingale (Cleveland State University), Doug Weber and Jennifer Collinger (University of Pittsburgh), Veronica Santos (UCLA), Justin Picorrelli (University of Wyoming).

This effort will continue to grow. Please join us.

Being a Swarm?!

DARPA OFFSET Seed Sprint: How do a swarm and team of humans work effectively together? This is the question and goal of the DARPA OFFSET program. The answer, of course, is to build intelligent swarms with a symbiotic human-in-the-loop design. The program was a six-month "sprint" in 2019 that culminated with a demo at DARPA's "FX3" last month. The Case/UT-Austin team lead by Michael Fu and Kiju Lee impressed the reviewers and we await the next steps for integration with the larger OFFSET program.

Team: Kiju Lee and Michael Fu (PIs), Wyatt Newman, Thomas Shkurti, Leah Roldan, Emily Graczyk, Ammar Nahari, Chuanqi Zheng, Chen Zhao, Dustin Tyler

Intelligent Neural Interfaces

It is one thing to apply electrical current to the nervous system and get a sensory response. It is quite another to apply more complex patterns of currents and pulses to actually provide a high level of fidelity and "naturalness." The Intelligent Neural Interfaces program demonstrated the complexity and potential solutions to patterned stimulation in a Phase I study in 2019. The program was award Phase II funding that will span through 2020 and into 2021.

Team: Emily Graczyk (PI), Ken Loparo, Souyma Ray, Bob Michaels, Naran Nallapareddy, Abigail Waltz, Farhad Kaffashi, Sreehari Sankar, Tanya Tebcherani, Platon Lukyanenko, and Dustin Tyler.

Being an Inspiration

The following is a copy of an email message received from a person that was sitting next to one of the participants in an HFi study. It is a reminder of the importance of the work in HFi. Remember that at the core, our work is about connection and bettering the human experience. The influence of our work extends further than we might even know.

Dear Dr. Tyler: I'm a postdoc in infectious diseases but was recently fortunate enough to sit next to one of the individuals participating in your research on a flight from Cleveland. He was a left forearm amputee and we had the most fantastic discussion about the research he's participating in. He showed me a number of the videos from your lab and expressed how the work has significantly changed his life. I was recently in a terrible accident and while my orthopedic surgeon was able to save my leg using intramedullary rods, plates, and screws, there was a significant period of time where I was in danger of becoming a lower-limb amputee; stories such as his resonate very personally with me.

It was truly an inspirational conversation and I just thought, as a PI, you'd be proud to know how life-changing the work and the people coming from your lab are--even to individuals not directly related to your field of expertise. This man also told me how the student working with him (the one who "pushed the button" for the first time on his sensory hand) recently defended [note: this is Ivana Cuberovic, who just finished her Ph.D. in May 2019] and how impactful and emotional that was for him. I'll admit this story brought me to tears and would like to extend my congratulations to them as well--that the research community across genres is so proud of their contributions to science and so fortunate to share a platform with them.

​Thanks again for the phenomenal work your group is doing and being an inspiration to us all. Maybe one day while visiting Cleveland I could stop by and see it all in action!

Sincerely, K.H.

Going Fully Inside

It has been a long and exciting four years since the start of the DARPA HAPTIX project and the vision of the fully-implanted iSens™. Basically, the goal was to press a button on your phone and then be connected directly to a prosthesis, in real time, such that the robot becomes part of one's self. This is the launching project for the HFi. As a holiday present for 2019, all the final testing for the iSens system was completed and it passed "with flying colors." The IDE application should be headed to the FDA first or second week of the new year. Depending on FDA response, we hope to deploy in 2020. This project will end its DARPA support in early 2021, but we have already secured funding from the Veteran's Administration to start in April 2020 to continue a four-year randomized-clinical trial with this device.

Team: MANY! The team has spanned several academic and industrial partners. There have been more the 40 people that have worked on this project in various capacities. Key partners have included Case Western Reserve Univ (project parent site), Medtronic, Providence VAMC, OrthoCarolina, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Ardiem Medical, University of Chicago, Univ of CA - San Francisco, and several sub-contractors and science partners.

To keep things interesting - the next DARPA proposal...

Bridging the Gap (BG+)

Creating the most advanced therapies to promote acute post-injury recovery and long-term implants to replace lost function. (See BAA here.)

The project fits within the Human Health pillar of the HFi and will bring the human-technology symbiosis to people with spinal cord injury. (Anyone wanting to participate should contact Ken Gustafson.)

Team Leadership: Ken Gustafson (PI), Bolu Ajiboye, Emily Graczyk, and Andrew Shofstall. There are many others in HFi are engaged to develop this ~$20-30MM proposal (Due Jan 22!!).

Believe it or not, this is only a sampling of the activities of HFi in 2019 and we are still just getting started. The HFi is a combination of powerful investigators and is continuing to grow.

Congratulations on 2019

Onward to an even more productive 2020!

Our Vision

HFi will be the global leader in creating human-technology relationships for a thriving, just, and connected world.
Building on 40+ years of neurotechnology success, we strive to achieve our vision through technological advances of direct neural connections between human sensorimotor systems, while building and promoting a culturally diverse, open, trans-disciplinary community of researchers, thinkers, students, entrepreneurs, and world leaders. We seek:
  • To create human-centered, symbiotic relationships between humans and technology.
  • To directly connect human to technology through neuromuscular interfaces.
  • Transdisciplinary knowledge and science, create technologies, and disseminate discoveries
  • To spin out revolutionary HFi technology to new enterprises.
  • To expand the limits of human experience through a human – technology interface.
  • To enhance one’s sense of self, community, and capability beyond the biological barriers.
The Human Fusions Institute pursues a transdisciplinary approach to developing a symbiotic human-technology relationship that considers the totality of a flourishing, harmonious society. We create an environment that inspires every person to a self-actualized pursuit of their passion in harmony with the overall HFi mission. We believe that technology should
  • Advance human social community
  • Improve human health
  • Expand human performance and capability
  • Extend human reach
  • Be equitable across all socioeconomic citizenry
  • Breakdown divisions so that EVERYONE can fully benefit from tech advancement

Core supporters:

  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Louis-Stokes, Cleveland Dept. of Veteran's Affairs Medical Center
  • CWRU School of Engineering
  • CWRU Department of Biomedical Engineering
  • Cleveland Advanced Platform for Technology (APT) Center
  • Cleveland Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Center
  • Institute for Smart, Secure, and Connected Systems (ISSACS)
  • Interactive Commons
  • Gov't Funding from NSF, NIH, DARPA, and VA

Other Key Partners:

  • Cleveland State University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Wyoming
  • Univ of California - Los Angels
  • Providence VAMC / Brown University
  • Ardiem Medical
  • Medtronic
  • Lawrence Livermore National Lab
  • OrthoCarolina
  • Platt & Associates, LLC

Contact for more information and to get engaged or to support the HFi:


Created with images by Gee - "Metal robotic arm isolated on white background " • SFIO CRACHO - "Closeup of woman eye with visual effects, isolated on white background. Horizontal" • Headway - "This photo was taken when our remote design team was together here at HQ last fall. We were working on an internal app idea together and needed to brainstorm a name for it. We also explored UX and UI options to see what would be the best solution based on our assumptions. Then we would get it in front of potential users to validate our ideas and iterate based on how users experienced it for the first time." • SFIO CRACHO - "Closeup of woman eye with visual effects, isolated on white background. Horizontal" • Kaspars Grinvalds - "Virtual reality glasseds on white background" • andov - "Internal grinding of a cylindrical part with an abrasive wheel on a machine, sparks fly in different directions. Metal machining." • Alexeiy - " American military robot developed for the exchange of mines at the exhibition in the capital of Ukraine" • aerogondo - "man looking at the sky filled drones drones" • sdecoret - "Businessman using digital artificial intelligence icon hologram 3D rendering" • natali_mis - "The hands show an innovative idea." • adam121 - "Young businessman exploring virtual world" • Robert Kneschke - "Pfeil zeigt in Richtung Mission" • MarekPhotoDesign.com - "core values list on clipboard"