Biomedical Robotics and Biomicrosystems Lab

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Objectives


The objective of the new IEEE-RAS Technical Committee on Rehabilitation Robotics is to provide the IEEE-RAS with an effective tool for promoting this flourishing research field, by favouring the exchange among researchers, not only from the robotic but also from the medical community, through focussed events and publications. First workshops were organized at ICRA 2004 and IROS 2004, as well as at the BioRob Conference, to which the proposed TC intends to contribute significantly.

The scope of this Technical Committee has been recently better specified as "Rehabilitation & Assistive Robotics". This modification is the direct outcome of the scientific progress and maturity reached by this broad research area.
The goal of Rehabilitation Robotics is to investigate the application of robotics to therapeutic procedures for achieving the best possible motor and/or cognitive functional recovery for persons with impairments following various diseases (e.g. stroke & other neuromotor disorders, brain and orthopaedic traumas, cognitive diseases, etc).
The goal of Assistive Robotics, instead, is to develop robotic aids for supporting independent living of persons who have chronic or degenerative limitiations in motor and/or cognitive abilities, such as the severely disabled and the elderly. Such robotic devices are typically key components of more general assistive systems, integrating telematic, mechatronic and other technological devices (e.g. advanced human-machine interfaces).

The recent advances of medical rehabilitation procedures, methodologies and tools tends to include more and more the cognitive aspects of motor control, also exploiting the new technologies for brain imaging, which allows to "close the loop" from brain to action. This gives an important role to robotics, which can be fruitfully employed in the rehabilitation of neuro-motor functions and motor capabilities, by providing tools that are in their nature flexible and programmable and that allow to set and assess procedures quantitatively. Robotic tools are being effectively applied not only to motor rehabilitation but also to promote recovery of cognitive deficits and the psychological enrichment of the elderly.

At the same time, the development of assistive technology for the disabled and the elderly, after a period of a slow but steady scientific progress, seems to be mature for new research and application break-throughs by combining human-centred design methodologies with integrated micro-mechatronic and robotic systems. New important research projects in this field have been recently launched both at academic and industrial level worldwide, e.g. in US, Europe, Japan and Korea.

The growing interest in this area of robotics research is shown worldwide by the success of focused publications and events, like the special issue on rehabilitation robotics of the journal “Autonomous Robots” (2003), the special issue on "Rehabilitation Robotics" of the Journal of Neuroengineering (2006), the special issue on "Rehabilitation Robotics" of the IEEE EMBS Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering (2007), the ICORR conference (International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics), held biannually and the special sessions organized at latest ICRA, IROS, ICAR. The new event promoted by the RAS jointly with the EMBS, the BioRob Conference (International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics), which took place in Pisa (Italy) on February 20-22 2006, explicitly included a dedicated track on rehabilitation and assistive robotics which was very successful.

Both the rehabilitation and the assistive robotics field already produced several commercial fall-outs that brought to the market advanced systems currently being validated in extensive clinical trials worlwide.


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