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health

New Actuators Allow Robots to Play a Role in Medical Recovery

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New Actuators Allow Robots to Play a Role in Medical Recovery

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.

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Resource Fix: A “tattoo” to monitor health

The field of health monitoring is growing all the time, while the monitoring devices themselves are getting smaller. Small heart rate monitors, bracelets, and other networked devices that track exercise, sleep, and movement have become commonplace. Now the ability to collect and track more sophisticated health data using just a thin, stick-on sensor is becoming a reality.

MC10 has developed a diagnostic sensor that bonds to skin to collect information on activity, to track temperature, and to potentially even collect electrocardiogram data. The electronic sensor is waterproof, it stretches, and it’s unobtrusive. It’s also a major advance in integrating electronics in the skin for a variety of health applications.

The first step in improving health monitoring was to make devices more portable. Now they’re becoming even smaller, and in some cases integrated with our bodies. Do you see other industries or technologies with the potential to move from big and standalone, to smaller or even integrated within larger systems?

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