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The University Magazine

RIT researchers work on bio-robotic prostheses

Robots may be the solution for people who are struggling to regain the use of their limbs, thanks to a research team that includes engineers and students from RIT.

The researchers are using physiological information, or bio-signals, produced by the human body to improve the performance of external assistive devices (orthoses). The project is funded through the National Science Foundation Computer, Information Science and Engineering Directorate and includes researchers and students from RIT, Georgia Tech and Georgetown University.

“The data collected through this project will assist designers and engineers in developing more sophisticated assistive aids for individuals suffering from various neuromuscular diseases and musculoskeletal injuries,” explains Edward Brown, assistant professor of electrical engineering at RIT and director of the Biomechatronic Learning Laboratory.

biorobotics

Edward Brown, back right, works with several of his student researchers in RITís Biomechatronic Learning Laboratory. At right front is a robotic arm the team will use in experiments designed to assist people with disabilities in regaining use of their limbs.

Brown says that people with these types of ailments may have extremely weak muscles that waste away over time. These individuals experience difficulties in performing the most basic physical tasks.

A robotic orthosis that takes advantage of the individual’s residual strength and any remaining physiological information in their limbs could ultimately assist muscular dystrophy patients regain significant use of their limbs.

“Better orthotic technologies could ultimately help people suffering from this disease greatly enhance the quality of their life,” Brown says.

Researchers in the Biomechatronic Learning Laboratory are currently studying individuals with healthy muscles to develop a baseline, and then plan to test their robotic system on patients currently suffering from muscular dystrophy.

The results from the project will be used to enhance the development of orthotics technologies and also contribute to the broader field of rehabilitation robotics, including the creation of better prosthetic limbs.

Will Dube