Researchers from Spain have developed a portable robotic device and a matching video game software platform for tele-rehabilitation, which they hope will help people with neuromuscular disabilities, such as stroke victims, regain function.
The ArmAssist, a project backed by a business initiative called FIK, consists of a mobile-based device that is connected to the user through an orthotic that records and measures the movements of the shoulder and elbow. Arm movements are translated to movements in a video game, thus helping with rehabilitation of the upper limbs. The device can be used at home, while the doctor can monitor the performance online through the quantitative results obtained from the games. The device is currently being tested in La Fe Hospital in Valencia.
From the press release:
The exercises proposed for favouring the rehabilitation of the patient are of two kinds: evaluation and training. The evaluation ones are short and which should be undertaken every day at the beginning and the end of the training session. These videogames train independently the range of motion, force, distance and of precision, so that the therapist can evaluate the progress of the patient.
For their part, the training games last longer and are more amenable for the patient. The objective is precisely to motivate the patient, training the arm over a longer period. These games also integrate a cognitive component in order to train also this aspect. Amongst these videogames, there are puzzles, memory games and card solitaire games.
The programmes of rehabilitation involve a combination of exercises to be carried out in the hospital under medical supervision and a series of exercises recommended to be undertaken at home. Currently, these exercises, in the majority of cases, cannot be done outside the medical centre – due to the excessive size of the current systems and which impede their portability. Moreover, the therapists have no kind of control over the therapy and so cannot provide a suitable programme of monitoring and enhancement.
Using telerehabilitation software that this assitive arm includes, a link is created between the patient and the therapist, which enables training him or her in their homes, and more independently, given that, using the computer programme with an Internet connection, the doctor can ensure the patient is doing the exercises correctly.
The therapist will thus be able to carry out a quantitative evaluation of the progress of the patient, an aspect that to date has not been covered by rehabilitation systems and represents a value enhancement for both patient and doctor. This software for telerehabilitation is a complete tool as it encompasses all stages of the therapy, from planning, carrying it out, and its monitoring.
ArmAssist can be used by acute phase patients, after having suffered a brain stroke, as well as chronic patients, for continuous training of the upper limbs for other kinds of disorders apart from ictus.