Many researchers go into their work with a problem in mind that needs to be solved. Not Jacob George: he approaches research with the end in mind. George’s end? “[To make] an impact in people’s lives—quickly.”

George’s lab, the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab, was founded in 2020 on the idea that their work in neurorobotics shouldn’t just sit on a desk or be published in papers—it should be able to help actual people as soon as possible. The Utah NeuroRobotics Lab has accomplished just that: their work in the intersection of artificial intelligence, robotics, and neuroscience has led them to develop biologically-inspired artificial intelligence and brain-machine interfaces to restore and/or enhance human function. In simpler terms: George’s team has created both invasive and non-invasive technology solutions for people who have experienced limb loss, strokes, spinal cord injuries, or traumatic brain injuries. Their technology allows people to regain control over missing or non-functioning body parts at an unprecedented level.

But the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab isn’t stopping there. Utilizing the non-invasive technology they’ve developed, the lab is working to offer this technology to everyone, regardless of physical capability. George “[envisions] an inclusive world where everyone can seamlessly interact with the technology around them, regardless of their physical capabilities.” With this technology, one could text a friend, check their online bank account, or call their mother—simply by thinking about the action.

In recognition of his research advancements at the intersection of artificial intelligence, robotics, and neuroscience, the University of Utah’s PIVOT center has named Jacob George the 2023 Innovator of the Year.

George would like to thank the PIVOT Center for their generosity and consideration; Huy Tran, the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab’s “right-hand man” at the PIVOT Center for his tireless work in helping them maintain funding and develop connections; and all members of the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab for their diligent work. The Utah NeuroRobotics Lab plans to continue their work and keep pushing the boundaries of what is truly possible with technology.

Learn more about Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty research topics and discover ways to get involved in undergraduate research.

Written by Marlee Jeppsen.