Rehabilitation Robot – Getting A Leg Up
Sometimes the oddest marriages of technology and problems result in new and surprisingly creative solutions. For example, who would have thought that a robot would be the perfect answer for a vocational school teaching physiotherapy and rehabilitation?
The Osaka Rehabilitation Vocational School had a problem- how to teach and provide real world experience to large numbers of physiotherapy students, and to evaluate their skill levels on a real time basis.
It wasn't practical to round up dozens of volunteers to act as guinea pigs for the students, and even if enough volunteers could be located and coaxing into participating, they wouldn't present the right symptoms and reactions to the students.
So, why not use a robot?
That's exactly what happened. "TREBO LO 5-3", a rehabilitation training robot that accurately reproduces the reactions, touch, and feel of a real human leg was developed by the advanced robotics laboratory lead by Professor Masutani of the Osaka Electro-Communication University.
The robot patient has been programmed to simulate a number of different conditions including apoplexy and Parkinson's disease. The robot leg responds realistically to the strength and direction of external pressure, helping the students to refine their techniques.
In the past, without actual patients to practice on, the students would resort to trying out their skills on other classmates. In contrast, the new robot is a tireless, uncomplaining, totally repeatable subject and gives each student a standardized learning experience.
The project started in the summer of 2004 as a result of discussions between the school and Professor Masutani, and has been supported by the active participation of a number of software, electrical machinery, and other robotics related companies in the Osaka area.
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