[FULLY ARMED] Brain-controlled robotic arm guides stroke rehab at home
When 66-year-old Oswald Reedus had a stroke in 2014, he became one of 795,000 people in the US who annually experience the same fate. In 2022, he also became the first stroke patient in the world to use a robotic arm controlled by his brainwaves - at home - to recover the use of a limb. A Houston resident, Reedus had access to a futuristic-looking, portable device, an invention of University of Houston engineering professor Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal and his team, which developed the portable brain-computer interface (BCI) exoskeleton to restore upper limb function.
"Our project addresses a pressing need for accessible, safe and effective stroke rehabilitation devices for in-clinic and at-home use for sustainable long-term therapy, a global market size expected to currently be $31 billion,” said Contreras-Vidal. “Unfortunately, current devices fail to engage patients, are hard to match to their needs and capabilities, are costly to use and maintain, or are limited to clinical settings."
The brain-controlled robotic arm requires no surgery. Reedus' use of it in his Houston home follows clinical trials at TIRR Memorial Hermann, led by Gerard Francisco, MD, chief medical officer and director of the Neuro Recovery Research Center at the hospital.
Once a patient straps into the robotic arm, the noninvasive brain-robot technology translates the user's brain activity into motor commands to drive powered, assist-as-needed, upper-limb robotics. Performance feedback is stored for monitoring and diagnostics through a user interface that also serves to provide real-time feedback of task and associated completion performance.
"If they cannot walk, they can be in a wheelchair, but if they cannot use their hands there are so many things that they will not be able to do," said Francisco.
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