Dima Gazda is the Co-founder & CEO of AI startup Esper Bionics, a team that aims to unleash human capacity by building technologies that can eliminate diseases, give humans extra abilities, and ultimately fulfill and prolong the lives of billions of people around the globe.
What initially attracted you to the medical field?
Frankly, becoming a doctor was not a conscious choice. As a 17-year-old, I had no idea where to go and what to do next. I grew up in a family of doctors, which meant that the medical field was a bit more familiar than other fields. That’s how I chose it. But it wasn’t until my sophomore year that I made a conscious choice to spend all my time studying medicine.
Ultimately, I stayed in med school because it is the best school of life and death, where you touch on people’s lives and destinies, and where you face hard choices and challenges. If you add science to this mix, you get very interesting and fulfilling years.
You initially began thinking about prosthetics after assisting in a surgical operation in Finland. Could you share this moment and why it was so pivotal?
Let me give you some context.
At Esper Bionics, we see prosthetics as the gateway to augmenting humanity and helping make the lives of billions longer and more fulfilling. When we were researching human augmentation technologies in 2017, Facebook suddenly suggested befriending a girl amputee whom I first met in 2006. She lost her hand in a car accident. Although, originally she was from Ukraine — just like I am — we met in Finland. Seeing her on Facebook eleven years later made me think of prosthetics and steered our research toward this field.
How did you then transition to the launch of Esper Bionics?
As I mentioned earlier, our research led us to the prosthetic industry. We saw this field as the birthplace of the technology stack necessary to introduce the most important technology of the future decades — electronic implants. Electronic implants need large wearables for charging and data transfer, and prostheses are ideal for this.
With this in mind, I co-founded Esper in 2019. By that time, I already was a serial entrepreneur with three international companies under my belt.
Can you discuss what Esper Hand is?
Sure. Ranked among TIME’s best inventions 2022, our Esper Hand is an AI-powered self-learning robotic hand and an important part of our data-driven bionic ecosystem, the first ecosystem of this kind on the market. The prosthesis is designed to be controlled as a biological human hand. We can customize its functionality to the needs and lifestyle of a particular user. That’s where we use machine learning algorithms. They “learn” the user’s behavior, predict their intended movements, and make it possible to change grips intuitively.
The hand is among the lightest bionic hands, is waterproof, and has a modular design. It is also three times faster in control than similar prostheses. I’m proud to share that the Esper Hand has been praised for its beautiful minimalistic anatomical design. It has won the Best of the Best 2022 Award from Red Dot, one of the biggest design competitions in the world, and has become a finalist in Fast Company’s 2022 Innovation by Design Awards.
Esper Control is another breakthrough technology that is being developed. Could you describe what it is and how it works?
Esper Control is a non-invasive electromyography-based brain-computer interface. Essentially, it is a system of non-invasive muscle sensors that detect muscle activation inside the user’s hand and send a signal to the robotic prosthesis to move in a particular way.
What are the benefits of this approach to a brain-machine interface versus a Neuralink-type approach?
In our case, you don’t need to insert any device inside your brain, even under your skin.
What are some of the ways machine learning is used with Esper’s products?
We use machine learning algorithms primarily as part of our cloud-based Esper Platform. The platform constantly gathers data from all the Esper Control sensors to analyze how each wearer uses the robotic prosthesis. It regularly updates the control algorithms of the hand so that next time in a similar situation the user's preferred grip has a higher priority. In other words, thanks to Esper Platform’s machine learning algorithms, the hand “learns” and adapts to the user’s behavior and moves increasingly intuitively.
Could you share the company’s vision behind building the biggest connected community of users of large wearables in the world?
Sure. But let me take a step back to give you more context.
Esper Bionics was founded in 2019 with a clear vision that electronics inside the human body, namely electronic implants, will become the most important technology of the future. This technology will give humans extra abilities, eliminate many diseases, and help billions of people live longer and more fulfilling lives in a diverse world.
As founders, we believe that many types of implants will emerge in the community of large wearable devices as they are excellent chargers, data receivers, and processors for electronic implants.
That’s why we are building the biggest in the world connected community of users of large wearables. Since the prosthetics industry is the core of this community, we are starting by upgrading it. By bringing in multifunctional self-learning assistive devices of a completely new architecture based on the use of AI and data, we can improve the lives of millions of people in the nearest future and unlock technologies to help billions of people later.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about Esper Bionics?
Yes, I would like to emphasize that we have created something much bigger than an AI-powered multifunctional hand prosthesis.
We have built the first-of-its-kind data-driven bionic ecosystem that currently consists of a software-powered robotic hand prosthesis, a cloud-based platform that uses machine learning algorithms to improve and personalize the control of the prosthesis, and a non-invasive system of muscle action detectors that allow translating signals from the user’s brain into the movements of the robotic hand.
We will continue expanding the range of our products to improve the lives of even more amputees, create the biggest community of users of large wearables, and, ultimately, help billions of people by introducing electronic implants.
Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Esper Bionics.
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