Rehabilitation with smart robotics opens the door to a wide and promising range of structural and neuromechanical training. Smart robotics can do more than just assist and shape body and limb movement when the robotic system itself has input in training strategy. Sensors in smart braces, wraps, garments, and exoskeletal devices gather data for algorithms that can influence or determine training. Stretchable sensors enable rich data in rehab tracking and training. For example., a collaboration between the University of Southampton and Imperial College London is developing smart sleeve technology to improve the results of physical therapy for stroke patients

The Sensory-Motor Systems Lab (SMS) at ETHzurich‘s Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems researches and develops smart robotics for a wide range of applications. SMS Arm Rehabilitation Robotics (ARMin) projects and subprojects explore strategies for motor learning and therapy with the ARMin exoskeleton. The table-top ARMin device provides intensive arm therapy while it also assesses baseline conditions, monitors changes, and develops new strategies to enhance both training and rehab.

ARMin subprojects underway include enhancements to current use cases and novel strategies only possible with systems that can observe and adapt on the fly. VIT-ARMin (Virtual Intensified and patient-Tailored) therapy focuses on long-term neurorehabilitative therapy for stroke patients. Mixed Robots Strategies employes error augmentation training to enhance motor adaptation – the opposite approach to conventional attempts to reduce errors. Multiplayer game playing with robot-assisted arms adds social interaction for motivation to intensify long-term therapy for years after strokes. The ChARMin intensive rehab program for children with neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy is designed to build independence and daily life participation. SMS also studies methods to fuse robotic arm therapy with conventional movement and exercise devices.

Artificially intelligent robots become a third participant in therapy when integrated sensors do more than track activity and alert patients and therapists. SMS intelligent robotics arm projects represent but one of the lab’s many focus areas. The five ARMin subprojects mentioned above give a glimpse of the wide range of therapeutic advances ahead for in just one focal area.