I’ve been attending a massive international conference since yesterday and had a opportunity to tour iDAPT (Intelligent Design for Adaptation, Participation and Technology), which is part of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and has – in the span of a year – had $36M thrown at it to create one of the world’s most advance research facilities to enhance the lives of older people and those with disabling injury or illness.
It is built using a model similar to CERN as a innovation lab for the brightest graduate students in the world to come intern and work on projects aligned with iDAPT’s mission.
It is a fascinating place and should you visit Toronto, do try to figure a way to get in to visit the site. Within the building are 5 unique, custom built labs – three are buried in the basement and have a decidedly NASA feel to them – a driver lab; a winter lab; and a stairs lab. Two additional labs sit on the 13th floor – a home lab and a care lab.
The basement labs are massive pods that are lifted into the research hall using a crane. They are placed on a hydraulic base that is able to twist, turn, shake and drop these labs – at speeds up to 1G.
A control room 4 stories up looks down on the labs when in the research hall. Dr. Geoff Fernie is the mastermind of this exceptional centre and he has grad students climbing over each other to get a spot on the team. All very cool.
They are currently finishing the final bits of construction for the labs and are studying things like:
– slips and falls in winter and the appropriate shoe wear (not surprisingly Canada Post is championing this research).
– the design of stairs and the neurological processes that go on in our brain when we ascend or descend stairs. Apparently our brain pays attention for the first couple steps as we use stairs then kind of goes on remote the rest of the way. The problem is that if the stairs were incorrectly built (in particular at the top – as they are often pre-manufactured and shipped on site for installation to existing supports) or damaged (think winter) then the slightest misalignment or glitch (of but 1mm) can cause a fall. They are exploring whether stairs should be constructed with differing rises and runs so as to force our brains to pay attention the whole way up or down.
2) this machine can create a 3D model of anything – out of resin – before your very eyes; 3) with that the lab’s shop room can build it
4) on left is the Driver Pod, the research hall is through that massive door on right
5) here you can see the crane and the Stair Pod inside the research hall
6) this mechanical engineer controls everything; 7) from waaay up there on the right
8 & 9) the Winter Lab Pod has real ice inside it, the roofs of each lab also come off so that a robotic or regular harness safety system can be used inside each lab as they put real patients in these
10) the Stair Pod rests on the hydraulics; 11) learning more about the driver lab
12) here’s the hydraulics taken from right inside the research hall
13) I took this one to give you a sense of perspective; 14) inside the stair lab with its robotic safety harness
15 & 16) the care lab is a real hospital room moved inside with its room removed so researchers can study and mount cameras
17 & 18) the Homelab is built in the same fashion … it was being renovated as the designers built it to look pretty but the researchers want a home more like yours and mine – lived in
19) interested in a job? your brand new workstation awaits
wow, that sounds awesome! maybe i should apply there after i graduate, as motor control/motor adaptation is right up my alley! of course, i’d like to do oculomotor work, but it’d be great to do some research in (simulated) real-world environments.
I am amazed of the entire complex. I find the goals of the people involved very interesting and must admit never thought about when working in such places. I would be anxious to experience their results.