One such area where the WAM excels is the nascent field of rehabilitation robotics. Worldwide there are 15 million new incidences of stroke each year. In the United States, most people survive, but a full two thirds experience some level of long-term motor and/or cognitive impairment.
Led by Dr. James Patton, director of the center for rehab robotics at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), a team of researchers is using a WAM arm in their studies of error-augmentation to help survivors of stroke regain upper-limb mobility and strength.
Combined with an inexpensive 3D projection system, users try to reach for balls that appear sequentially in space before them. During the various targeted movements, researchers can impart a full range of force fields on the user. This methodology is designed to reinforce normal motions and trajectories. The researchers create an engaging environment that challenges the user and leverages the natural process of neuroplastic learning to restore lost functions.
RIC's innovative approach puts the rehabilitation therapist in direct control of robotic therapy design, session length, repetition, movement intensity, individual patient scheduling, progress tracking, and treatment efficacy evaluation.
Robotic nerorehabilitation leverages the therapist's time, and assures that the user is engaged in their treatment, where both patient and therapist can see and feel their progress in real time.