Researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University have developed a robotic arm to aide rehabilitation to upper limbs during stroke recovery. Stroke is the third leading cause of disability worldwide and studies have shown that intensive, long-term rehabilitation efforts are needed to alleviate post-stroke symptoms and disability. The robotic arm, dubbed the “mobile exo-neuro-musculo-skeleton”, is a lightweight wearable device that integrates the technologies of soft robotics, an exo-skeleton, and exo-nerve stimulation. This first-of-its-kind robotic device enables patients to engage in rehabilitation anytime and anywhere drastically improving post-stroke recovery prognosis.
“We are confident that with our mobile exo-neuro-musculo-skeleton, stroke patients can conduct rehabilitation training anytime and anywhere, turning the training into part of their daily activities. We hope such flexible self-help training can well supplement traditional outpatient rehabilitation services, helping stroke patients achieve a much better rehabilitation progress," stated Dr. Hu Xiao-ling, head of research on the device at the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) of PolyU.
From the Hong Kong Polytechnic University article: "The working principle of both exo-skeleton and soft robot designs is to provide external mechanical forces driven by voluntary muscle signals to assist the patient’s desired joint movement. Conventional exo-skeleton structure is mainly constructed by orthotic materials such as metal and plastic, simulating external bones of the patient. Although it is compact in size, it is heavy and uncomfortable to wear. Soft robot, made of air-filled or liquid-filled pipes to simulate one’s external muscles, is light in weight but very bulky in size. Both types of structures demand high electrical power for driving motors or pumps, thus it is not convenient for patients to use them outside hospitals or rehabilitation centres. Combining the advantages of both structural designs, the BME innovative robotic arm is light in weight, compact in size, fast in response and demands minimal power supply, therefore it is suitable for use in both indoor and outdoor environment."
Read more about the robotic arm that improves stroke recovery at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.