In Singapore, researchers have designed a wearable assistive robot that can also help people with walking difficulties and those recovering.
As virtual reality, robots can be useful to seniors. Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have designed one to help this part of the population. Called Mobile Robotic Balance Support or MRBA (pronounced “Mister-Bah”), it’s a wearable assistance robot that can detect and prevent falls before they happen. These are the second leading cause of death from accidental or unintentional injuries in the world according to the World Health Organization.
Concretely, MRBA uses its integrated sensors to instantly detect a loss of balance and thus catch up with the user using his safety harness worn around his hips. It also uses a depth-sensing camera to observe its movements and machine learning algorithms to estimate its state of equilibrium in real time. This makes it easier to predict any future imbalance or fall in a person.
Helping seniors at home and in hospital
In addition to reducing the risk of injury in seniors, MRBA can also help those who have difficulty walking and keeping their balance when sitting down and standing up. Useful in daily life, it can assist people with reduced mobility to get in and out of elevators, open doors or even get dressed. The robot is also a means of accompanying recovering individuals for rehabilitation exercises during physiotherapy consultations. It has been designed to be used with minimal assistance from caregivers in institutional and home settings.
MRBA has already been tested in clinical trials involving 29 participants. Among them were people who had suffered a stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. The robot managed to help them sit, stand and walk, as well as perform simple tasks like fetching water. The researchers also claim that no fall was recorded during these trials, which lasted three days for each participant.
They now hope to expand their study and recruit an additional 71 participants from rehabilitation day centers to further develop the robot’s use cases. Additionally, the team at the Rehabilitation Research Institute of Singapore (RRIS), which helped design MRBA, is working with industry partners to bring it to market over the next year.