Animae Ex Machina

About Us

What we do

We seek to understand how humans and other animals sense their bodies and the environment to control movement. We use this understanding to improve mobility for people with lower limb amputation – walking, negotiating stairs, running, jumping. We are building smarter controllers and sensory feedback for prosthetic limbs. We are performing basic research in neural control of movement, how the brain creates a sense of ownership of the body, and more!

We are a part of the VA CLiMB in Seattle. We are also with the University of Washington, collaborating with the AMP lab and the Depts. of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.

The Center for Limb Loss and MoBility (CLiMB)

CLiMB's mission is to preserve and enhance mobility in veterans and others with lower limb musculoskeletal impairment or limb loss. Our success is the result of unique laboratory resources and a group of internationally renowned clinicians and scientists with overlapping and complementary expertise in normal and impaired mobility. These include clinical experts in foot/ankle orthopedic surgery and amputee rehabilitation including prosthetic and orthotic restoration; engineers with expertise in foot/ankle biomechanics, prosthetic sensing, and development; psychologists with expertise in the psychosocial dimensions of disability and the obstacles to participation; and epidemiologists and health services researchers who have expertise in the interaction between health care innovation and its implementation. The shared resources of laboratories and experimental expertise in our group include: motion capture, biplane fluoroscopy, robotic gait simulation, mechanical testing, prosthetic and orthotic fabrication, advanced 3D printing, and large data set analysis.

University of Washington AMPlify lab

The AMP Lab is a collaboration at the University of Washington between the College of Engineering and Rehabilitation Medicine that seeks to amplify human and robotic movement and performance. The AMP Lab seeks to advance our understanding of the dynamics and control of movement to design treatment strategies and assistive technologies that improve function, performance, and quality of life for people in health and disease.



Bishop's Hand

Why does your hand feel like a part of your body, but your screwdriver does not? We are investigating the mechanisms used by the brain to create a sense of ownership over the body. One of the ways that researchers study this is to create the illusion of body ownership over "false" limbs, like fake hands or prosthetic limbs. There are only a few ways we can measure whether a person is feeling this illusion, such as questionnaire, or by measuring reactions to threats to the limb. We are working toward a quantitative understanding of how this "rubber hand illusion" is affected by sensory cues, movement, and expectation. In the laboratory, we can control the visual, tactile, and movement cues that people experience, determine how they contribute to feelings of body ownership.

ConTact Sensors

The ConTact Sensor is a force and contact area sensitive sensor that can be easily integrated into most soft-robotics designs. Using the fluidic conductive medium already inherent in soft robots, the sensor can sense the force and size of an object pressing into it. Soft robots can now feel the world around them without the need for extra sensors.

Smart Prosthesis

Could a prosthesis learn from examples to adapt to any real-world scenario, much like humans do? Such a self-driving prosthesis would be a radical shift from the current state of affairs where assistive devices operate under strict “modes” of operation with terrain specific movement profiles.

Attaching wearable devices to the body

Take a moment to be mindful of all the objects attached to your body - your clothing, your shoes, your watch and possibly a pair of glasses resting on your nose. While these passive wearable objects are optimally designed to camouflage interaction forces between the human body and the device, the same degree of comfort and function is not available for active wearable devices, such as powered prostheses, exoskeletons, and haptic devices which apply external forces and moments to the human body. This project seeks to develop the fundamental scientific principles behind the design of engineered physical interfaces between humans and machines.

Muscle Activation and Gestures

New gesture-sensing systems use sophisticated cameras and data processing to achieve in-air interaction with computer systems. A key feature of human movement, however, is invisible to these cameras- the activation of the muscles. Electromyography (EMG) can sense the activation of muscles, but it is difficult to infer pose and movement from EMG alone. These two complementary technologies can be combined to improve human-machine interaction.

Virtual Prosthesis

Despite the incredible cost of a state of the art upper limb prosthesis, they are often abandoned by users who feel they do not match their needs. Effective use of these prostheses requires advanced training methods - which has unfortunately received relatively little focus.

Sensory Feetback

With the loss of a limb comes not only a loss of function: the rich sensory experience we use to navigate the world, now lost, has no artificial equivalent. Without a way to feel out our surroundings, everyday tasks such as navigating the stairs become challenging and attention-consuming. Our goal is to create a prosthetic modification for patients who have undergone a cutting-edge surgical intervention called Targeted Reinnervation, enabling them to feel genuine sensation once more.

VisuoTactile Sensory Conflict

How we as humans make sense of our world? This is a complex question which we are trying to address by means of sensory conflict in the realm of vision and taction.

Smart Step

Imagine yourself wearing a pair of ski boots. Imagine yourself having to wear a medical boot because you tripped and sprained your ankle. Imagine yourself wearing a prosthetic leg having to walk down stairs. Smart Step is a smart wearable device that helps you descend the stairs easily and intuitively.

Targeted Muscle Reinnervation Mapping

Targeted Reinnervation (TR) surgery is a groundbreaking intervention for amputees, enabling them to feel authentic sensations on their missing limb. Despite incredible innovation in creating prosthetic systems that take advantage of TR's sensory phenomena, there has been limited study in characterizing the nature of the sensations, and how they develop over time. We aim to explicitly outline the exact qualities of the stimulus at the surgery site that elicits particular sensations in the phantom limb, like pressure, itching, or scratching. This characterization will inform the design of future prostheses to more richly simulate the myriad feelings of the world with which we interact.


3D Printed lattice microstructures to mimic soft biological materials, L Johnson, C Richburg, M Lew, W Ledoux, P Aubin, E Rombokas (2018)

Sensitivity to Conflict Between Visual Touch and Tactile Touch, D Caballero, E Rombokas (2018)

A Lower Limb Prosthesis Haptic Feedback System for Stair Descent, A Sie, J Realmuto, E Rombokas (2017)

Sensory Feedback for Lower Extremity Prostheses Incorporating Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR), E Rombokas (2016)

Gpu based path integral control with learned dynamics, G Williams, E Rombokas, T Daniel (2015)

A robotic model of inertial flight maneuvering in the hawkmoth, E Rombokas, L Scheuer, JP Dyhr, TL Daniel (2014)

Sensing from control: airframe deformation for simultaneous actuation and state estimation, BT Hinson, E Rombokas, JP Dyhr, TL Daniel, KA Morgansen (2013)

Vibrotactile sensory substitution for electromyographic control of object manipulation, E Rombokas, CE Stepp, C Chang, M Malhotra, Y Matsuoka (2013)

Reinforcement Learning and Synergistic Control of the ACT Hand, E Rombokas, M Malhotra, E Theodorou, E Todorov, Y Matsuoka (2012)

Comparison of remote pressure and vibrotactile feedback for prosthetic hand control, C Tejeiro, CE Stepp, M Malhotra, E Rombokas, Y Matsuoka (2012)

Tendon-driven control of biomechanical and robotic systems: A path integral reinforcement learning approach, E Rombokas, E Theodorou, M Malhotra, E Todorov, Y Matsuoka (2012)

Reduced dimensionality control for the ACT hand, M Malhotra, E Rombokas, E Theodorou, E Todorov, Y Matsuoka (2012)

Biologically inspired grasp planning using only orthogonal approach angles, E Rombokas, P Brook, JR Smith, Y Matsuoka (2012)

Tendon-Driven Variable Impedance Control Using Reinforcement Learning, M Malhotra, E Rombokas, E Theodorou, E Todorov, Y Matsuoka (2012)

Continuous vocalization control of a full-scale assistive robot, M Chung, E Rombokas, Q An, Y Matsuoka, J Bilmes (2012)

Task-specific dynamics for robotic hand control, E Rombokas, M Malhotra, Y Matsuoka (2012)

Task-specific demonstration and practiced synergies for writing with the ACT hand, Eric Rombokas, Mark Malhotra, Yoky Matsuoka (2011)


Eric Rombokas

Investigator Supreme

Astrini Sie

PhD Candidate - Electrical Engineering

David Boe

Prosthetologist & Neurobiologist

David Caballero

PhD Candidate - Electrical Engineering

Gaurav Mukherjee

PhD Student - Mechanical Engineering

Lalit Palve

Masters Candidate - Mechanical Engineering

Luke Johnson

Masters Candidate - Mechanical Engineering

Nataliya Rokhmanova

Masters Student - Mechanical Engineering

Pornthep Preechayasomboon

Masters Student - Mechanical Engineering

Vijeth Rai

PhD Candidate - Electrical Engineering


Hamburger Helper Hackaton - Hungry Hamburger Helpers Wanted!

A group of Occupational Therapy fellows have been designing an assistive device for eating hamburgers. The Hamburger Helper is a device for keeping a hamburger together during eating. The initial idea and prototype was created by a bilateral upper limb amputee who was tired of hamburgers falling apart when he held them in his hook prostheses. Over the winter quarter, he, the OT fellows, and the experts at VA have developed some concepts and design specifications for advancing the idea.

If you have technical skills, come partner with some potential users of the device, and the clinicians, to realize and iterate on their designs using 3D printing and other fab techniques.

Thursday, March 29th, 2018, at 9:00am, meet at the AMP lab. The teams will work through the day, culminating with with Hamburger Happy Hour at 4:00. Work with our faculty and professional engineers, learn about assistive devices, and get to use some fancy 3D printers!

RSVP to by Weds. March 28th, 11:59pm


There are more topics and projects than we have the capacity to explore. We are always seeking skilled, self-motivated, and indomitable people from a wide variety of disciplines. Good candidates for joining the lab are more than enthusiastic; they have a concrete set of skills to bring to bear on a particular problem or topic.

University of Washington

Seattle, WA 98105

Center for Limb Loss and MoBility (CLiMB)

VA Puget Sound Health Care System

1660 South Columbian Way, MS 151

Seattle, WA 98105