Chapter 48: Rehabilitation Robotics Orthotics and Prosthetics

H. Krebs, N. Hogan, W. Durfee, and H. Herr. Chapter 48: Rehabilitation Robotics, Orthotics, and Prosthetics, Textbook of Neural Repair and Rehabilitation Vol. 2, 2004.


One overarching goal drives our research and development activities: to revolutionize rehabilitation medicine with robotics, mechatronics, and information technologies that can assist movement, enhance treatment and quantify outcomes. In this chapter, we present three fronts of this revolution: rehabilitation robotics, orthotics, and prosthetics. The first and newest approach, rehabilitation robotics, has grown significantly in the last ten years (c.f. special issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 37:6 of Nov/Dec 2000; International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics – ICORR 2001 and 2003). Previously, robotics were incorporated into assistive devices to help the physically challenged accommodate their impairment. Rehabilitation robotics, by contrast, fashions a new class of Submitted: Textbook of Neural Repair and Rehabilitation (Selzer, Clarke, Cohen, Duncan, Gage) interactive and user-friendly robots that enhance the clinicians’ goal of facilitating recovery by not only evaluating but also by delivering measured therapy to patients. Krebs and Hogan review pioneering clinical results in the field, discuss the growing pains of forging a novel technology, and outline the potential for a brilliant future. Of the other two activities, we will limit our discussion to mechatronic systems. Orthotics and prosthetics may be considered as a category of assistive robotics. While the previous high water mark for mechatronic assistive technology occurred during the Vietnam War decades of 1960s and 1970s, recent advancements in materials, computers, and neuro-connectivity (neuroprostheses) have reinvigorated research in this field. In fact, the lack of equivalent advances in realm of energy storage represents the only major hurdle preventing the realization of practical versions of Hollywood’s fancies such as Star Trek’s Commander Data or the Terminator. Durfee reviews pioneering developments in orthotics, Krebs and Hogan review upper-limb prostheses, and Herr reviews lower extremity prostheses. We will also discuss some emerging developments that could render some science fictions into reality.

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