Physical therapists have a variety of tools to help patients with neurological or orthopedic injuries regain control of their muscles. There are balls and boards to improve balance, stretchy bands to increase strength, and a host of exercises to help with rehabilitation. A robot can help therapists better target their patients' workouts by assisting movement and monitoring nerve impulses in their muscles.
Recovering strength and flexibility after an injury often involves physical therapy. Exercising muscles that may have atrophied is an important part of the rehabilitation process. Polish bio-tech company Egzotech has developed a robot, called Luna, to make those exercises interactive while providing therapists with information about their patients' progress.
Luna uses electromyography, or EMG, to identify electrical currents as patients bend their arms or legs. Egzotech CEO Michal Mikulski said detecting muscle tension that is not visible to the naked eye can help therapists refine an exercise regime.
"We reach a certain stage of disease development....when the muscle tension is not even visible. But these signals can still be seen on our machines, Luna is still able to detect them. And based on that, when the brain sends a signal to the muscle to flex, even though we don't see it, Luna is still able to detect it. It detects these signals and causes the movement of the limb, as if it were performed naturally," Mikulski stated.
Luna can also make therapy fun for children, who often get bored with repetitive movements. It allows them to play games without being aware that they are exercising their muscles.
"Sometimes it is a spacecraft, sometimes shooting balls, sometimes flying a dragon. In any case, a child wants to win a game, wants to compete, but in fact they are exercising," he explained.
Although Luna is just a prototype, Egzotech expects to have a marketable and efficient robot later this year.