Researchers at University of Massachusetts Amherst have been looking into improving stroke rehab through the use of a robot. Specifically, they recruited the uBot-5 humanoid to deliver physical and speech therapy to a 72-year-old post stroke patient and discovered that the robot does a pretty good job as long as voice and physical rehab are completed separately.
The robot is considerably more interesting to work with than typical rehab exercise machines, so the patient stays engaged and focused. Because the uBot-5 has the ability to work within different rehab domains, the team wanted to find out whether concurrent training (voice and physical) would be effective or whether the two domains interfere with each other.
From the study abstract in journal Aphasiology:
Methods & Procedures: A 72-year-old male chronically challenged by aphasia and hemiparesis completed speech and physical therapy tasks in the sole condition (Speech Only, Physical Only) and in the sequential condition (Speech & Physical). The therapy activities were delivered by a humanoid robot.
Outcomes & Results: Greater gains in speech and physical functions were obtained during the sole condition than in the sequential condition, suggesting a competitive interaction between speech and physical therapies.
Conclusions: The cross-domain competition can be accounted for by fatigue, participant characteristics, and task characteristics. Objective data on speech and physical functions and subjective data on perceived quality of life indicate positive outcomes in this single case. These findings warrant further research on the feasibility and utility of humanoid robots in stroke rehabilitation.