Robots are often seen as a thing of the future. This has changed in recent years- the time of the robot has, at long last, arrived. However, the reality of the robot doesn’t necessarily parallel the common interpretation of the word. A robot is not necessarily a device that imitates a human, and it definitely isn’t capable of conspiring against and conquering them. In reality, a robot is a device that automatically acts on demands that are dictated by humans through programming. The purpose of a robot is generally to assist humans, improve their overall quality of life, their health, or, in this case, all three.
A stroke, which occurs when a blood clot interrupts the flow of blood to the brain, is the second leading cause of death around the globe. Nearly 800,000 people are victims of a stroke in America alone every year, and many of these people are left with physical disabilities. For instance, a victim of a stroke may be rendered incapable of using parts of their body such as their arms, hands, or legs. The victim will then have to endure months of physical therapy in order to recover, which may or may not be effective. That’s where the robots come in.
Recent developments in robotics have allowed for the creation of robots that assist stroke victims on the path to recovery by helping them through physical therapy. Studies conducted at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have found that patients treated using robotic therapy improved more and at a faster rate than those that were subjected to traditional therapy. Furthermore, robot-assisted therapy would not be any more costly than traditional therapy. Robot assisted therapy holds the upper hand against traditional therapy due to its intensity, which is far greater than that of traditional therapy. Traditional therapy cannot realistically rival robot-assisted therapy due to the physical limitations of the therapist, who would be unable to work as long or as hard as an inexhaustible robot.
One of these robots, which was developed at MIT, has been dubbed the MIT-Manus. The MIT-Manus is directed at stroke patients that have lost the ability to use their arms. The system is composed of a robotic joystick and a computer monitor, which prompts the user to move toward a target using the joystick. The joystick does not interfere unless the user makes a mistake, such as moving in the wrong direction or failing to move at all. It then gently corrects them by giving them a nudge in the right direction. The purpose of this exercise is to forge new connections between the arm and the brain that would enable the patient to use their arm again.
The MIT-Manus isn’t the only robot of its kind. There are several more robots that have been developed and many more that are being developed, all of which aim to aid stroke victims through robot-assisted physical therapy. Among these is the MusicGlove, which is a Guitar-Hero like game that is played by touching a specific finger to the thumb while wearingthe MusicGlove, which detects the movement and determine rather or not it is correct. Its purpose is to increase hand functionality. This is especially effective because it’s fun- in essence, it’s a video game. This makes the patient more likely to use it and, as a result, more likely to achieve the desired results.
Of course, when there are robots there are engineers. When it comes to robotics of any kind, mechanical engineers play a crucial role. After all, they are responsible for the actual construction of the robot. Software engineers also play a crucial role in the building of a robot. For instance, a software engineer had to program both the MIT-Manus and the MusicGlove in order for them to function properly. Without software, there would be no robots. Electrical engineers and computer engineers also play a vital role in designing these robots. They are responsible for creating the electrical and computing hardware that controls the robot, not to mention parts such as the sensors which enable the MusicGlove to detect specific movements made by the wearer.
Robots are made to help humans. When they are used in therapy for stroke victims they can quite literally change lives. Yet none of it would be possible without the hard work, expertise, and dedication of engineers. The world has seen what they are capable of. Perhaps they’ll find a way to prevent strokes altogether in the future. After all, the sky’s the limit.
• Demers, Dana. "Stroke Rehabilitation Engineering: Robotic Therapy." Http://www.ele.uri.edu/. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2013.
• Fecht, Sarah. "Robo-Gloves to Aid Stroke Victims." Popular Mechanics. N.p., 1 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.
• Hooper, Rich. "Robotics Engineer." Rich Hooper, PhD, PE:. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.
• "Software Engineering in Robotics." Software Engineering in Robotics. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.
• "Stroke Treatment." Stroke.org. National Stroke Association, 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.
• Thomson, Elizabeth A. "MIT Develops Anklebot for Stroke Patients." MIT's News Office. MIT, 30 June 2005. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.
• Trafton, Anne. "Robotic Therapy Helps Stroke Patients Regain Function." MIT's News Office. MIT, 18 Apr. 2010. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.
• Volpe, Bruce T. "Robotic Devices as Therapeutic and Diagnostic Tools for Stroke Recovery." Http://archneur.jamanetwork.com/. JAMA Neurology, Sept. 2009. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.
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