Strokes often cause serious disabilities in those afflicted, and rehab requires stamina from the therapists as well as patients. Relearning the skill of walking means therapists end up resembling soldiers rescuing war wounded, often in pairs holding up a patient and prodding the movement of the legs with various means. This is a hard job that a collaborative effort in Europe hopes to overcome with a new robot that has a bunch of features to improve stroke therapy.
Still in development, the CORBYS robot has motors that assist with leg movement, as well as sensors to detect the strength and dexterity of the patient’s own legs. Additional sensors like a heart rate monitor, EEG, body thermometer, and one that measures muscle activity can help a therapist controlling the robot have better awareness of the patient.
More from Alpha Galileo Foundation:
“The walking robot has several settings, and the therapist selects the correct mode based on how far the patient has come in his or her rehabilitation”, says Liverud [Anders Liverud at SINTEF]. “The first step is to attach sensors to the patient’s body and let them walk on a treadmill. A therapist manually corrects the walking pattern and, with the help of the sensors, create a model of the patient’s walking pattern”, he says.
In the next mode, the system adjusts the walking pattern to the defined model. New adjustments are made and are used to improve optimisation of the walking pattern.
“The patient wears an EEG cap which measures brain activity”, says Liverud. “By using these signals combined with input from other physiological and system sensors, the robotic system registers whether the patient wants to stop, change speed or turn, and can adapt immediately”, he says. “The robot continues to correct any walking pattern errors. However, since it also allows the patient the freedom to decide where and how he or she walks, the patient experiences control and keeps motivation to continue with the training”, says Liverud.
Press release: New robot to help get stroke patients back on their feet