What is Biomechatronics?
Biomechatronics is a technology that combines biology, engineering, electronics and mechanics to research and design therapeutic, assistive and diagnostic devices that can potentially be used to compensate and eventually replace human physiological functions. The technology focuses on the interaction between human physiology and electromechanical devices or systems designed to mimic the human body, and therefore encompasses areas such as neuroscience and robotics.
Technology has opened up endless possibilities as biomechanical devices are able to replace the functionality of human organs and limbs. Pacemakers and defibrillators are considered early examples.
Biomechatronics is heavily dependent on the connection with the human body in order to connect with muscles and nerves. The interface allows the user to send or receive information from the device, creating a feedback loop for better control. In order for the interface to pass, a mechanical sensor measures information from the biomechanical device and forwards the message to a biosensor or controller.
Much of the analysis is concerned with studying human movement due to its complexity. Biosensors recognize what movement a person intends to make and forward the information to a controller, which is either inside or outside the biomechanical device. Controllers interpret the information and deliver it to an actuator. Apart from transmitting the information received or sent, the controllers are responsible for the movements of a biomechanical device. After receiving instructions, the actuators then generate a movement. The actuator can assist the user in moving or be an actual replacement for the original muscle or limb of the user.
Despite the demand, the technology is struggling in the healthcare market due to its high cost. Biomechatronic devices still have issues with battery performance, the need for constant mechanical assistance, and ease of use as most still require neural connections between the prosthesis and the human body. The technology is not yet advanced enough to enable a proper human-machine interface.