Robotic glove puts rehabilitation into the hands of stroke patients

Researchers have developed a prototype robotic glove aimed at rehabilitating stroke patients through facilitating movement and exercise.

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Alfredo Cesario of research partner San Raffaele S.p.A. modelling the glove. University of Hertfordshire

Rehabilitation after a stroke can be a long and arduous process -- but a device developed by researchers at the University at Hertfordshire quite literally puts recovery in the hands of the patients. The robotic glove is designed for use at home, to help patients recover strength and movement in affected hands.

Over a period of three years, the team has developed two prototype devices that fit over the patient's hand, attaching to each individual finger and strapping around the wrist and forearm. These are then paired with game software that encourages the patient to move their arm, wrist and hand in certain ways.

In one game, for example, the patient bends his or her wrist to control a clam that eats fish swimming past. In another, moving the hand and wrist controls a crocodile jumping obstacles and moving left and right. In a third game, flexing the wrist and elbow controls a ball travelling around a maze.

Records of the patient's performance are then sent to their therapist in order to monitor progress and tailor follow-up treatment and exercises.

The devices are part of a €4.6 million project called SCRIPT -- Supervised Care and Rehabilitation Involving Personal Tele-robotics -- coordinated by senior lecturer in adaptive systems at the University's School of Computer Science and expert in rehabilitation robotics and assistive technologies Dr Farshid Amirabdollahian.

"This project focused on therapies for stroke patients at home. Our goal was to make motivating therapies available to people to practise at home using this system, hoping that they have a vested interest to practise and will do so," Dr Amirabdollahian said.

"We tried this system with 30 patients and found that patients indeed practised at home, on average around 100 minutes each week, and some showed clinical improvements in their hand and arm function."

The team is now working on a follow-up project to improve the device based on the results achieved, and is seeking funding to produce the prototype commercially.

You can check out a couple of short videos of how it works below, and see more on the SCRIPT Project YouTube channel.

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