Both cerebral palsy and stroke are debilitating neurological disorders that have the potential to permanently damage a person’s body movements and muscle coordination; however, cerebral palsy and stroke patients who participate in physical therapy sessions, a common treatment for these disabilities, may be able to regain, or retain, some motor function. Patients undergoing physical therapy commonly exhibit pain and boredom with their rehabilitation regimen, which studies have shown decrease a patient’s participation in physical therapy and therefore lengthen recovery time. Furthermore, these studies demonstrate that physical therapy that keeps the patient engaged is more likely to shorten patient recovery time by helping that patient maintain motivation to participate in physical therapy sessions.
Robotic aided therapy is a new technology that has shown promising results facilitating motor learning in stroke patients. However, existing systems are large, heavy, and expensive. Another problem with these systems is that they are created to be one-size-fits-all. Most are created to fit the average adult male, but allow for some adjustment to tighten or loosen the device. Unfortunately, children are significantly smaller than the average adult male, which does not allow these therapy options to be feasible for children. Furthermore, significantly more women suffer from strokes than men. Since women are smaller than men, on average, many of them are also not able to benefit from these new therapeutic technologies. Currently, there is no known exoskeleton arm with these therapeutic capabilities available to smaller women and children.
The goal of this project is to design a robotic exoskeleton and tablet gaming suite that promotes engagement and productivity in at-home therapeutic exercises. To achieve this goal, we created a robotic exoskeleton that communicates via Bluetooth with a tablet and acts as a video game controller.