Special Interview
I think the future of cyborg technology development competition will be soon

How to live comfortably in the extended life, now called the 100 years of life. Do people with disabilities enjoy the same life as healthy people? We talked to Professor Saito, who promotes cutting-edge research with the theme of "cyborg" for such social issues.

Director of Biomedical Research Institute
Professor of Medicine (Health Science) / Doctor of Medicine
Naoto Saito (SAITO, Naoto)

Please tell us about the purpose of the "Walk Assist Cyborg Project" at Shinshu University and what it is like.

Director Saito (Saito): In 2014, Shinshu University launched a “Study Area Fusion Research Group” consisting of five research institutes as a part of university reform to raise human resources and funds specialized in research. Was. This aims to create new disciplines by integrating different fields. To this effect, the Biomedical Research Institute, a medical school, plays a central role, and the Institute for Environmental and Energy Materials Science, an engineering department, and the International Fiber Engineering Institute, a textile department, collaborate. The cyborg project was launched as a near future project. When he came up with the idea of embedding a non-skeleton type walking assist robot “curara®” already developed at Shinshu University in the body, it was called a “cyborg project” because it was a cyborg became.



Please tell me why the implantable type is better and its features.

In the case of wearable walking assist robots, people with disabilities can't put on and take off on their own, so a helper is always needed. This is a major problem with the current walking assist robots, and many people cannot use any good robot. Also, it is difficult to carry around because it is difficult to carry, it is difficult to take a bath with a robot attached, and it is difficult to swim in the pool. The implantable walking assist robot can solve all of these problems in daily life.

What kind of "cyborg" technology can be considered today?

I am an orthopedic surgeon and specialize in artificial joints. Artificial joints have a history of more than 50 years and more than 100,000 operations are performed annually in Japan. And it continues to increase with the aging of society. Isn't this artificial joint just a cyborg technology? In addition, implantable medical devices, such as artificial hearts and cochlear implants, are cyborg technologies, and their numbers and types are increasing.

Please tell us if there are any issues with coexistence with "cyborg" parts in the human body.

For example, there are many challenges for embedding a walking assist robot in the body. First of all, it is necessary to reduce the size and weight of the main unit without reducing its functions. It is also possible to use a material with high biocompatibility, that is, a material that is highly safe for the human body, or to completely cover the robot with a material with high biocompatibility so that the inside of the human body is not touched. It is important. Furthermore, if a battery is to be implanted in the body, it is necessary to enable non-contact charging and to increase the capacity significantly. And after these technological improvements and safety have been demonstrated, ethical discussions will take place.

003 was adopted for the project from 2016. How has the project progressed since that time?

A major problem with wearable walking assist robots was that the joints could not be moved even when fixed to the bone. As you can see when you are aware of your body, each human joint does not move in one direction like a hinge, but moves three-dimensionally. However, this problem has been solved quickly, and what we are developing now allows the joints to move in a completely different way. As a result, several patents have been filed. Another reason is that the wearable robot has become smaller and lighter. At present it has evolved into a type worn like pants. Outreach (note: working outward to raise people's interest and interest) includes being exhibited at the information space of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, being featured in newspapers and magazines, Did you have a briefing?

The project deadline is 2020. Is there an outlook up to that point, or an outlook?

Complete the prototype in 2020. Currently, we are in the process of optimally combining actuators (note: components of mechanical and electrical circuits that convert electrical signals output from a computer into physical motion) and control devices. However, since this is only a prototype, of course, I think that a lot of time and money is needed to implant it in the human body. But I hope this prototype can show the concept. In the future, I would like to proceed with development together with companies that have the same dream. If you are interested, please contact Shinshu University Biomedical Research Institute.

* Biomedical Research Institute ( https://www.shinshu-u.ac.jp/institution/ibs/ )

What have you gained or seen through the development of the walking assist device?

I came to think about the development of medical equipment. Shinshu University has developed a project called “Bioimplantable / Wearable Type by Establishing a Physiological Data Integration System” from 2017, a project of the Joint Research Promotion Program for Industry-Academia Co-creation (OPERA) by JST (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) as a development form of the cyborg project. We have started the creation of a device development platform, and we have already entered the third year. This project aims to build a new information system to advance the development of implantable medical devices in Japan. Of course, it covers all parts such as artificial heart and cochlear implant.
Until now, bioimplantable and wearable devices have been developed individually in each medical specialty. Regarding interaction with the human body, knowledge and technology have been accumulated in each specialized field. However, even when developing similar things, it is left to each development, so it is not efficient from the viewpoint of medical device development as a whole. Another problem is that information about other related fields is not enough. To solve these problems,

①Collect data developed by individuals
(2) First, enable keyword search based on (2)
③ Analyze the data of (1) with AI to be able to derive information on "hazard", "risk" and "risk control" in medical device development

The purpose of this project is to create such a flow.
This will accelerate the development of implantable and wearable devices through open innovation (note: technological innovation by collaborating across frameworks such as joint R & D and cross-industry exchanges). Is.
The first step is to share the knowledge gained from each development. But not only that, but also by making AI learn the data more and more, it will be possible to extract information on "hazard", "risk" and "risk control" in medical device development. For example, when searching for "artificial joints" or "cyborgs", when you search for a certain keyword, not only data related to the development, but also things to be aware of, dangers, and how to deal with them are shared. That is where we aim.
Eventually, if it functions as a `` toolbox '' that can be shared by development people, it should be able to gather information useful for medical device development and approval, and use it as needed is. For example, I hope that it will be possible to standardize safety evaluation standards and to help foster a new medical industry based on information.




I think the future of living only with the brain is medical. I don't know if that person is happy. With the evolution of AI and deep learning (note: a machine learning method that allows computers to learn the tasks that humans naturally perform), computers will not replace humans. The OPERA project mentioned above is being developed using IBM's Watson (AI called AI), but I have not yet felt the terrible or scary of AI. The role of the computer will change, but the human mind is too complex to elucidate. Even if we can create a computer that imitates the human mind, we think it is logically impossible for us, who do not even know our own mind, to create a computer with a real heart.