The research team is led by Jiping He, Ph.D., of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. Dr. He* directs the Institute's Center for Neural Interface Design and is a professor of bioengineering at ASU's Fulton School of Engineering. Dr. He will present a paper on the design and evaluation of the robotic arm this summer at the 9th International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics in Chicago on June 28-July 1.
Dubbed "RUPERT," for Robotic Upper Extremity Repetitive Therapy, Kinetic Muscles, Inc. is producing the prototypes for the project, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Kinetic Muscles currently has a device for hand rehabilitation in stroke survivors on the market.
There are two key benefit phases for stroke victims in the project development timetable, according to Dr. He. Currently, the device is able to mimic a fluid, natural extension of the arm using pneumatic muscles and can be programmed for repetitive exercises specific to the user that improve arm and hand flexibility and strength.
The team is now working to engineer greater intelligence into the device so that it responds directly to a user's intent. "We want RUPERT to be able to sense when the user is attempting to reach for something, and to automatically assist their volitional movement." said Dr. He. "Not only is the goal to make the motion more intuitive, but we want the robot to assist at those points in the movement where the individual needs it," said He. As