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Engineering soft robots for paradigm shift in rehabilitation – Science Nation



Tim goo totus suffered a spinal cord injury in a swimming accident nearly a decade ago he's been in the chair ever since he'd like to be able to do more for himself that's what brings him here to Harvard University where he helps test new wearable robotic devices designed for hand and arm rehabilitation I've been telling people about it because it's pretty exciting it's it's it has given me hope seems like it's inspired me to you know get out and try to do things I didn't think I can do before so basically every you know week or so we're testing a new type of glove a new type of sensor and you type of control scheme and using this feedback and from our participants in our study to understand if we're moving in the right direction or not yes with support from the National Science Foundation designer robot assist Connor Walsh and a team are developing inflatable soft robots to help people like Tim regain use of their upper extremities when someone suffers an injury such as a stroke or spinal cord injury they they lose function so one of the things that we're thinking about doing is how do we help restore their function so that we can enable these people to be able to be more independent our approach to doing that is creating very lightweight and soft wearable robot that people could potentially wear all day every day wall says some patients could use these wearable robots short-term to rehab an injury others with more serious conditions might use them as assistive devices on a long-term basis yeah so I think the field cut me recognizes that some devices are maybe better for her assistance and some are better for rehabilitation but there's definitely a gray area between those two and where if you're wearing a device that's an assistive device all day every day maybe that's actually helping you get better the challenge is making the robots comfortable to wear and intuitive to use sensors control the movement if we tap on the palm sensor this is the mode where we help our wares like open up their hand first and then if you maintain the contact or tap again that will help you grip during our design we also put a soft release the idea was that some of our participants could reach across and hit the sensor to release but we also incorporated another like external button they are made of layered textile materials with balloon like bladders stitched inside on the top part of the glove we might have textiles that can stretch a little bit more on the inside part maybe textiles that can stretch less and it's that difference in the mechanical properties of those textiles that when it gets inflated that causes us to have the motion in that it has team member and physician Sabrina Paganini is testing new treatments for people with the degenerative muscle disease ALS could you see this becoming part of clothing that you might want to wear she sees a growing need for these robots need for assistive devices is gonna continue to increase because people will live longer which is great as we develop new treatments but at the same time we need to be able to give them not just longer lives but more fulfilling more productive lives tim has been working with the robots for just a couple of months but he's excited for the future it's easy to get discouraged and think that you can't do things in now that you know like I said with this glove and then the shoulder harness I just see different possibilities that just seemed like way out of way out of the ballpark and now it's it seems like I like literally have things in my region designing wearable soft robots to help people with disabilities help themselves the science nation I'm Miles O'Brien

Glenn Chapman

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