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Cerebral Palsy News: How A Robot Physical Therapist Helps Patients Cope

Update Date: Feb 18, 2017 11:19 AM EST

A robot physical therapist is now being employed to meet the needs to patients including those suffering from cerebral palsy. Most of the subjects have increased their physical activity significantly with the help of the humanoid.

Recently a young girl afflicted with cerebral palsy has been getting instructions from a pint-sized robot physical therapist at home instead of going to a doctor's office. Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology found that combining a simple game with words of encouragement and physical cues from the humanoid can boost the patients' efforts instead of going through the routine all by themselves.

Researchers use a 3D motion tracker to monitor the movements of the patients with cerebral palsy. The robot physical therapist will offer encouragement for correct motions, or will demonstrate if the patient did it incorrectly.

Ayanna Howard, professor at Georgia Tech who leads the project of the robot physical therapist, said that one of the primary issues in therapy with kids is that they do not get enough of it. Patients need to do physical therapy for it to be effective.

A robot physical therapist will not be able to replace the human expertise but it can provide routine direction and encouragement that would be normally too expensive. Robotic hardware are getting cheaper and humanoids are now easier to program.

These machine AIs may soon start appearing in people's everyday life. A robotic seal called Paro which is made in Japan is now working with elderly patients in some nursing homes. By reminding them to take medicines and perform their daily exercises, it helps the patients reduce their level of stress.

Aside from a robot physical therapist, Howard and her team are exploring how they can help with a routine for child-care tasks. Robots could help in demonstrating simple tasks or even feeding or changing children.

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