Following a stroke, many patients have to relearn many of their motor skills. Robotic exoskeletons have been touted as a potentially valuable tool for helping patients develop these neuromuscular skills, but the technology has not yet lived up to that potential.
A start-up called LinkDyn may have come up with the solution. The foundation for LinkDyn’s technologies is a novel actuator, which is the component in the robot that is responsible for controlling its movement. The LinkDyn actuator is extremely sensitive to user input, meaning recovering patients don’t have to apply a great deal of force in order for the system to respond. At the same time, the actuator doesn’t move too quickly or too powerfully, which would pose safety concerns. In short, the actuator allows LinkDyn’s technologies to move smoothly and easily, which is essential for any viable neuromuscular recovery system.
LinkDyn has already developed a robotic arm that can be controlled using a virtual reality-based platform that draws on the vast literature of neuromuscular research. In addition, the company is in the process of building wearable exoskeleton robotics with funding from the National Science Foundation. The company’s ultimate goal is to make robotic rehabilitation not only possible, but economically viable for patients.