After over a year of delays The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition dedicated its new building in downtown Pensacola on Monday. Speaking in front of a crowd of a few hundred local officials and colleagues in one of the spacious new research rooms at the facility, Dr. Ken Ford, the Founder, Director and CEO of IHMC talked about the gift that inspired the building’s name. "Pensacola attorney and native son Fredrick G Levin, with everything else on your plate demanding time and attention, you've always been one of the most visible, vocal and fervent champions of IHMC and Pensacola. And we are forever grateful to you. And it is with profound gratitude that I now announce the incredible gift of one million dollars donated by Mr. Fred Levin to IHMC, in support of our continued research and discovery."
The building has officially been named the Levin Center for IHMC Research. It was back in early 2014 that the plans for the building were announced. Architect Carter Quina talked about creating an old looking building, reflecting the style of the neighborhood. But just as plans were being finalized, the April 2014 flood hit and most of the effort and funds had to be put into getting the existing building up and running again.
Today, Dr. Ken Ford said the new building will expand current research and open up the institute to new projects. "It will allow us to do things we couldn't do before because it's custom designed for research as opposed to a building we repurposed for research. And, also, the new space allows us to have room to expand and to bring in new people. Finally, it allows us to consolidate so we'll all be near each other and research really benefits by being face to face."
And some of that research is making a difference in people’s lives. While he was speaking at the dedication event, Fred Levin said he was invited to the institute recently to see a man who was paralyzed from the waist down, get up and walk. He introduced that man at the event. Mark Daniel is a Research Associates and Exoskeleton Pilot at IHMC. He was paralyzed from the waist down at age 18 in a car wreck. He says the institute contacted him about becoming a part of their research team. They asked about his upper body strength and what kind of risks he was willing to take for the research. "We went to work pretty soon after that on the first exoskeleton." He says they are now working with the third exoskeleton they have built together. Daniel says the latest version of the exoskeleton gives him remarkable mobility. "I have the ability to walk, take corners, walk up slopes, walk up and down stairs." He says he can take different size steps for whatever the path he's taking. "I can stand in front of the sink and wash the dishes, change a light bulb, things like that. Things that you don't really think about are [what] I'm focused on."
The building’s first floor houses the robotics and exoskeleton laboratory as well as a sensory substitution lab. The second floor observation corridor showcases a glass wall that overlooks the robotics laboratory that will offer visitors a place to watch this state of the art robotics work. The second and third floors also include conference rooms, offices, a boardroom, and future lab space. Finally there is a rooftop deck offering excellent views of Downtown Pensacola in all directions. The Levin Center for IHMC Research is located at 420 East Romana Street in downtown Pensacola.