Wednesday 13 January 2016

Softer robotic glove for stroke patients

NUS invention more comfortable, lighter to use during rehabilitation
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2016

A team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has invented a robotic glove with rubbery "fingers" designed to help stroke patients with rehabilitation.

It detects a patient's intention to perform a hand action, such as picking up a pen, and helps the patient move his or her fingers to accomplish the task.

Unlike traditional metal gloves used for rehabilitation, the new glove is made of stretchy cloth and silicone rubber. It weighs around 200g - significantly lighter than the alternatives, which are usually between 400g and 500g.

The new glove also better mimics a patient's natural hand movements, say doctors, and is more comfortable to wear.

"The usual hard robotic gloves have rigid linkages and joints, and they can cause quite a lot of discomfort for patients," said Assistant Professor Raye Yeow, who is from the university's department of biomedical engineering.

"They don't provide the natural range of movement," said Prof Yeow, who specialises in soft robotics and is a key member of the research team.

There was an average of 5,868 stroke incidences each year from 2005 to 2013, according to the National Registry of Diseases Office.

A stroke can leave a person partially paralysed on one side of his body, including the hand.

"The purpose of (such gloves) is to prevent stiffness and wasting of the muscle by mobilising the joints," Prof Yeow said.

The team's invention is equipped with radio frequency identification technology, which tells the glove which hand posture to adopt.

Faced with an object tagged as an egg, for example, the glove flexes into a pinching position, rather than the grip one uses to hold a water bottle.

The next step, said Prof Yeow, is to conduct a six-month trial on 30 stroke patients to look at how effective the glove is in helping them recover hand function.

Using magnetic resonance imaging, the team will also see how the patient's brain is stimulated during such therapy sessions.

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