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Building Ironman: MIT Media Lab Biomechatronics Shoot

A couple of weeks ago I did a shoot at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab for the Biomechatronics Group (how’s that for a name?!). Now that the client has seen the images I get to write about it!

Given that it’s MIT, I was expecting to be amazed by what the people there were working on. Boy was I right. The “Biomech” Group is a small group of a dozen or so researchers who are, basically, building Ironman. Founded by an engineer and rock climber named Hugh Herr who lost both of his legs below the knee to an ice climbing incident (and who responded to the tragedy by designing and building himself artificial lower legs so good he could continue rock climbing), the Biomech Group has developed artificial biomechanical prosthetic limbs that move and function the same way human limbs do. The Biomech Group is redoing its website, and I was called in to create photographs of some of the things they’re working on, such as a biomechanical ankle and knee. Below is one of the photos from the shoot, of the current generation knee that the lab is working on under the direction of Postdoctoral Associate Elliott Rouse.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab Biomechatronics Group Knee by Elliott Rouse

©2013 Chris Conti Photography. All Rights Reserved.

In order to recreate the functions of human limbs in their biomechanical ones, the members of the Biomech Group need to have a deep and precise understanding of the motions and forces at play in the normal function of human limbs. In order to precisely measure the movements the human body makes in a natural stride, the lab uses an infrared motion capture system (similar to the systems used by Hollywood in the creation of lifelike animation and special effects) which consists of an array of infrared emitters and cameras recording the precise position of spherical “markers” that reflect the infrared light which are attached to strategic places on test subjects’ bodies.The below image is of Postdoctoral Associate Jared Markowitz on the motion capture system.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab Biomechatronics Group infrared motion capture system with researcher Jared Markowitz

©2013 Chris Conti Photography. All Rights Reserved.

This was without a doubt one of the coolest and most interesting photoshoots I’ve ever done, and I can’t wait to come back and work with the Biomech Group again.

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