Team works on robots to help people recover from strokes

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Researchers at Hertfordshire University are aiming to develop robots to help people recover from strokes.

The team is working on a three-year project that hopes to develop robotic devices that will facilitate repetitive movement of hands and wrists during the chronic phases of stroke rehabilitation.

Dr Farshid Amirabdollahian, an expert in rehabilitation robotics and assistive technologies from Hertfordshire University’s School of Computer Science, told The Engineer: ‘This project is following on from research over the past 15 years, which has been looking at the potential of robots to deliver a series of repetitive tasks, as required in stroke-rehabilitation therapy.

‘The hand and the wrist are the least researched area of rehabilitation. There are two or three organisations that have looked at these body parts but no one has looked at implementing therapeutic robotic devices into people’s homes,’ he said. 

The team believes that by using a robotic device and an interactive game-based interface, the therapy could become more enjoyable than methods that include asking a patient to press a sponge ball with their fingers.

‘At the moment we haven’t decided on the exact games that will be used but we are looking at board games, and other games that require lifting an object and putting it into a certain place, or putting a key into a keyhole,’ explained Amirabdollahian. 

He believes that patient recovery could be improved by making engaging and motivational devices available for home use.

In addition, the researchers plan to build in a tele-robotic communication platform that enables patients to receive instructions from healthcare professionals via the internet.

The SCRIPT (Supervised Care and Rehabilitation Involving Personal Tele-robotics) project is partially funded by the EC under the FP7 programme and includes input from Sheffield University.