Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a robotic exoskeleton that could provide personalized, high-quality therapy to patients with spinal and neurological injuries.
Dubbed HARMONY, the robot’s design accommodates the user’s entire upper body, enabling bilateral training possibilities. It connects to the wearer at three places on each side of the upper body, features 14 axes for a wide range of natural motion, and offers tunable pressure and force that allow the device to feel weightless. It can also be programmed to gradually increase exercise difficulty levels, according to a press release.
“HARMONY was specially designed to offer customized therapy for optimal efficacy,” Ashish Deshpande, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, said in the release. “Not only does the exoskeleton adjust to patient size, it can also be programmed to be gentle or firm based on the individual’s therapy needs.”
HARMONY is equipped with sensors that collect data at 2,000 times per second, which are analyzed for immediate personalized interaction.
Due to its ability to adapt to the specific, corrective ways that humans learn, the researchers believe the exoskeleton could reduce recovery time and help patients improve coordination for daily activities such as eating and dressing, according to the release.
The researchers plan to further develop HARMONY’s software in preparation for an upcoming trial period this summer. They also plan to conduct a study with stroke and spinal cord injury patients that will compare HARMONY’s efficacy with conventional rehabilitative therapy.