Intelligent, affordable rehab robot to help stroke patients

Mar 27, 2012 By Erin Vollick

Rehabilitation is crucial after a stroke. Yet patients don’t always do their exercises because they’re boring or difficult to do at home.

But what if you could make them easy and fun?

Enter University of Toronto Associate Professor Alex Mihailidis and his intelligent, table-top robot.

"This new robot will help to advance the use of robotics in stroke rehab," said Mihailidis, “as it will provide an affordable and accessible technology that can be used in hospitals, clinics, and in the home.”

Mihailidis, of U of T’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) knows the speed and intensity by which patients begin rehabilitation exercises greatly increases patients' neuroplasticity—the brain's ability to reorganize itself around damaged areas by forming new neural connections—and mobility. But rehab exercises are often neglected in a home environment, either because those exercises are repetitive and boring, or because attendants and rehab machines are needed to oversee or complete the exercises. 

With his team of researchers, Mihailidis, the Barbara G. Stymiest Research Chair in Rehabilitation Technology at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute,  used interviews with focus groups and therapists, along with questionnaires from more 200 respondents to design a new, more cost-effective rehabilitation robot. Working with industrial partner Quanser Consulting Inc., they developed a lightweight, portable robot. Approximately one-tenth the cost of rehab robots currently available, the robot is designed to go home with patients.

And it’s intelligent.

"The fact that it can automatically learn about a user and adapt its exercises accordingly makes this robot unique," Mihailidis said.

Patients interact with games and other visual stimuli displayed on a computer screen as part of their exercises, making these repetitive movements fun and interactive. Meanwhile, the robot's artificial intelligence, an integral part of its design, allows the robot to operate independently, tracking a patient's progress and recalling how the patient did during previous sessions. It adjusts the difficulty of the exercises according to the user's needs and fatigue-level, while a camera system—also a unique characteristic—records patients' posture and movements.

IBBME post-doctoral researcher Rajibul Huq, designer of the robotic intelligence, explained that "the system can record video or any other data" that attendants can then access remotely.   

The rehab robot technology may also help patients suffering from spinal cord and brain injuries, osteoarthritis, or address other types of upper body rehabilitation needs. A second round of clinical trials of the is scheduled to begin next month, with the goal of distributing the technology by early autumn.

Explore further: 'Humans' star William Hurt says AI sentience is 'inevitable'

Related Stories

Rehab robots lend stroke patients a hand

Aug 11, 2011

Robot-assisted therapy has measurable benefits for patients with a weaker arm following a stroke. This is according to new research featured in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation, published by SAGE, which is the first to use ...

Robot teaches stroke survivors

Mar 15, 2010

Shaking hands with a robotic arm could be a new way to help stroke patients learn to use their arms again. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation re ...

Can robots take over rehab?

Jan 04, 2012

Visiting the iMove center at UC Irvine's Gross Hall is like being on the set of a sci-fi movie. Here, the merging of machines and humans — the premise of such futuristic films as "Alien" and "The Terminator" ...

Hand Robot - a revolution of stroke therapy

Aug 04, 2011

Jointly developed by Dr Raymond Tong Kai-yu, Associate Professor of the Department of Health Technology and Informatics, and the Industrial Centre, this Exoskeleton Hand Robotic Training Device works to recover ...

Recommended for you

Autonomous robot Myon joins the cast at a Berlin opera

Jul 02, 2015

"My Square Lady" last month opened in Berlin at the Komische Oper. The outstanding feature about this production is that a character named Myon plays a key role on stage, and Myon is a robot—of the white, ...

Autonomous Robird is one step closer

Jul 01, 2015

With the assistance of the European Space Agency ESA, robotics researchers at the University of Twente have taken an essential step toward the Robird's completely autonomous flight. This lifelike, robotic ...

Four reasons why the Terminator is already here

Jul 01, 2015

As Terminator: Genisys hits cinemas around the world, ScienceNetwork WA looks at some of the feats performed by robots in the Terminator films, and investigates how long until reality catches up with scienc ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.