Robots have been taking on a growing range of healthcare related tasks in recent times, from operating in care homes to engaging with children before operations. A fascinating project from Georgia Institute of Technology continues this trend, with a robot, called Darwin, offering therapy to cerebral palsy patients.
They’ve found that the robot allows for a gamification of the therapy process that significantly helps the patient meet their targets. The robot allows for simple games to be combined with words, encouragement and a range of physical cues from the robot itself. In these early experiments, this has provided a noticeable boost to the efforts of each patient compared to individual sessions.
Patients were monitored during the session using 3D motion trackers, with the robot offering them praise for the right actions, and demonstrations if they haven’t performed them correctly.
“One of the primary issues with therapy is that kids aren’t getting enough of it,” the researchers say. “For it to be effective, you need to do it every day.”
Of course, robotics is not the only interesting use of technology for therapy and rehabilitation. Immersive Rehab is a British startup that is using virtual reality to help people rehabilitate themselves after injury.
They wanted to make rehab a more accessible and engaging process, both to start and then to maintain. The process is especially challenging for stroke patients and those with limited mobility, as they struggle to engage with physical objects.
Immersive Rehab aim to help these people by offering both neurological and physical rehab in a virtual environment. Users perform the same kind of movements they would attempt in physical rehab, but they are grabbing and interacting with items virtually. The idea is that they trick the brain into thinking they are engaging with real objects, and thus make important gains in their mobility.
The hope is to eventually develop a global community of people going through the rehab process, with an extensive library of VR based exercises they can perform, each tailored to specific conditions.