For Immediate Release
June 2, 2011
Paulette W. Campbell
Johns Hopkins APL Licenses Prosthetic Control Software to HDT Robotics
Agreement Results in First Commercial Technology License
From Groundbreaking Prosthetics Program
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Md., has licensed large motor control (LMC) software to HDT Robotics, a business unit of HDT Global and a provider of advanced robotic manipulation systems and military robotics solutions.
This agreement grants HDT rights to incorporate the software into robotic limbs that it intends to sell on the commercial market. While the company has the right to change the software, the original software work is recognized through royalty payments to APL.
The large motor control software was originally developed for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 (RP 2009) program, an APL-led effort that developed the Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL), an advanced upper-extremity prosthesis that promises to restore full motor and sensory capability to upper-extremity amputees. Heather Curran, a technology and marketing manager in APL's Office of Technology Transfer, says the agreement represents the first commercial license from the RP 2009 effort. HDT previously licensed this same technology for use among military customers.
The MPL — currently being used in non-human primate clinical trials — includes LMC software in its shoulder and elbow joints, as well as to control wrist movements. "This software controls the motors in the arm that allows prosthetic users to use the mechanical upper arm to perform everyday tasks such as picking up an object or opening a door," explains Kapil Katyal, a biomedical software systems engineer in APL's National Security Technology Department.
HDT has been a subcontractor on the RP 2009 effort since its inception in 2005. Its commercial robotic arms will contain several instances of the software to control each bend, which is accomplished by a large motor controller manufactured by HDT Robotics. The first product is expected to have 11 LMCs.
"We are pleased to have a long-standing relationship with Johns Hopkins APL and to have been a part of the DARPA Revolutionizing Prosthetics project through which this technology was developed," says Tom Van Doren, chief operating officer at HDT Robotics. "Our continued partnership with APL will allow HDT to bring products to market quickly. For those of us at HDT, commercializing this technology is a realization of our corporate vision."
"This dual use is expected to help pave the way for use in affordable prosthetics," says Curran. "This transfer demonstrates a dual use of a government funded technology. It was originally developed for DARPA within the prosthetic limb program and will now also be applied within commercial robotics.
"Obviously, this technology is a small part of the total program but represents the value of software and other unpatented technology," she continues. "Access to the software saves the company time and effort, helping to get products to market faster where they can benefit both the government and the public. The royalty payments we receive help fund APL's ongoing commercialization efforts."
According to Curran, this transfer exemplifies what is expected to be a trend in commercializing the enormous suite of cutting edge technology from the program. "In addition to searching for the best commercialization path for the prosthetic arm — ensuring that it reaches both military and other amputees — transfer such as this can be leveraged across many fields and applications."
The Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit www.jhuapl.edu