Washington, May 6 : Florida Atlantic University experts have created a unique robotic device that may prove quite useful in rehabilitating patients suffering from neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease and stroke.
The inventors of the cable driven robot say that they have designed and built the device to aid physical therapists and their patients to retain injured muscles.
The new robotic device has been made from moving parts like motors, cables and spools, enclosed within an acrylic case with a handle (joystick) that is indirectly connected to the system through magnetic attraction.
Dr. Oren Masory, a professor of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science who developed the cable driven robot with engineering graduate student student Melissa Morris, claims that it is the first-known cable driven robot to utilize a barrier between the operator and the moving mechanisms of the system.
The makers of the device say that the system does not contain any rigid parts that could suddenly harm or injure the user, and that the device can be used in a physical therapy office or at home without supervision.
A safety button has been embedded in the handle of the device. When it is released during operation, a signal is sent to the controller that the patient has lost contact with the handle, and the system immediately shuts down.
The device can operate in various modes which help it guide patients through a series of routine exercises.
One mode enables the patient to begin his/her training by following a pre-programmed path which corresponds to "repetitions" done in traditional physical therapy, while another mode assists the patient as he/she attempts to follow the path, and the robot corrects them if they move outside of the path in much the same way a therapist would do by providing gentle resistance.
The device also offers varying resistance at all points within the platform to simulate contact with objects and increase muscle strength.
It also operates in an additional mode that offers a significant advantage over traditional physical therapy by providing absolutely no resistance to the patient, allowing movement anywhere within the platform for the purpose of diagnostic measurements.
The device can also help physical therapists in modifying the program to create new paths or change the level of resistance.
The robot has been programmed to track the patient's progress and records data such as position and speed, which can later be analysed by the physical therapist so as to make necessary adjustments in the treatment in accordance with the patient's progress.
"Right now, physical therapists have no way of collecting empirical data that can measure the path, force or progress of any patient. This device can help alleviate that problem," said Morris.
"Because this device is much lower in cost and less intimidating than existing systems, therapists will be able to track and manage the progress of multiple patients remotely with fewer office visits. The reduction in costs will enable patients to receive longer sessions of therapy which are still covered by insurance," said Masory.