What is robotic therapy and what possibilities does it offer?

terapia robótica

In recent years, advances in robotic technology have revolutionized various fields, including healthcare and therapies. Robotic therapy, also known as rehabilitation robotics, has emerged as a powerful tool to improve the quality of life for individuals suffering from injuries or neuromuscular disorders.

As we will see later, innovations in robotics based on neurophysiological and clinical knowledge are providing encouraging results in the healthcare field. Rehabilitation robots offer physical and psychological support to patients in their recovery process. Various research studies report increased patient engagement thanks to the use of engaging games and technology-assisted social interaction.

What is robotic therapy?

The concept of robotic therapy involves the use of robots and robotic devices in the process of physical and neurological rehabilitation. These units are designed to assist and complement conventional therapy performed by physiotherapists or other healthcare professionals. Their goal is to help patients recover or improve their motor, functional, and cognitive skills through specific and repetitive exercises.

In this sense, the type of therapy in question encompasses a wide range of training devices focused on exercising bodily functions lost due to neurological or traumatic events. Additionally, robots help rehabilitation therapists provide more accessible, consistent, and efficient training. At the same time, they also collect valuable data critical for assessing patients’ recovery progress.

To provide a bit of history, the development of robotic rehabilitation can be traced back to a patent filed by Theodor Büdingen in 1910. Through this patent, he registered an “apparatus for curing motion,” a device powered by an electric motor that guides and supports the steps of patients with heart conditions. However, it wasn’t until 1994 that a rehabilitation robot was clinically tested. The mentioned device was the MIT-MANUS, developed since 1989 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Possibilities of robotic therapy

Robotic therapy offers a range of possibilities and benefits that can complement and enhance conventional rehabilitation methods. Some of these possibilities include:

  • Personalization and adaptability: Therapeutic robots can be programmed and adjusted to meet the individual needs and capabilities of each patient. This allows for personalized and specific therapy tailored to their skill level and progress over time. Robots can also provide real-time feedback, helping patients correct and improve their technique.
  • Increased intensity and repetition: A key factor in successful rehabilitation is the repetition of movements and exercises. However, traditional manual therapy may be limited by therapist fatigue and time constraints. Therapeutic robots can perform repetitive movements precisely and consistently, allowing for greater therapy intensity and a higher number of repetitions, promoting brain plasticity and functional recovery.
  • Data recording and analysis: Furthermore, therapeutic robots can record detailed data about the patient’s performance during therapy sessions. This data may include strength, range of motion, and the accuracy of movements. The collected information can be used to assess patient progress, identify areas for improvement, and adjust the rehabilitation plan accordingly.
  • Motivation and engagement: Robotic therapy can be more engaging and motivating for patients, especially for those who may feel discouraged or frustrated by the challenges of rehabilitation. Interactive games and visual interfaces used in therapeutic robots can make the rehabilitation process more enjoyable and appealing. Even the appearance and performance of the robot encourage active participation and long-term commitment.

Advantages of robotic therapy

Specifically, we can summarize the benefits of robotic therapy as follows:

  • Precision and control: Therapeutic robots are designed to perform precise and controlled movements. This allows for highly specific therapy targeting specific areas of the body or motor functions. The robot’s precision can be especially beneficial in cases requiring highly focused rehabilitation, such as recovering fine movements in brain or neuromuscular injuries.
  • Safety and risk reduction: Robotic therapy provides a controlled and safe environment for patients. Robots are equipped with sensors and safety mechanisms to prevent injuries and adapt to the individual needs of the patient. Additionally, robot assistance during exercises reduces the risk of incorrect movements or overexertion, minimizing the risk of relapses or additional injuries.
  • Access and availability: Indeed, robotic therapy can overcome geographical and temporal access barriers. The design of some therapeutic robots allows for home use, providing the opportunity to perform rehabilitation exercises at home. This convenience is especially beneficial for those living in remote areas or having difficulty traveling to rehabilitation centers.
  • Complement to traditional therapy: In reality, the development of therapeutic robots does not aim to replace healthcare professionals but rather to complement and streamline their work. For example, conventional rehabilitation of the lower and upper extremities requires physiotherapists to invest a lot of time and physical effort. In contrast, the use of robotic devices facilitates repetitive, intensive, and specific exercise training, potentially relieving therapists of some of the workload. Moreover, therapeutic robots are auxiliary tools in the rehabilitation process, allowing specialists to focus on more complex and personalized tasks while the robot takes care of repetitive and routine exercises.

Characteristics of robotic rehabilitation

In summary, numerous technological developments focused on robotic therapy have allowed it to acquire increasingly diverse characteristics. Depending on its purposes, we can mention the following attributes:

  • Multimodal interaction: Therapeutic robots use a variety of interfaces and interaction modalities, including touch screens, motion sensors, and haptic devices. These functionalities enable more natural and patient-adapted interaction, providing real-time feedback and adjusting therapy based on the patient’s response.
  • Adaptability and personalization: Indeed, therapeutic robots can adapt to the needs and capabilities of each patient. By programming and adjusting parameters, robots can provide personalized and evolving therapy, adapting the difficulty of exercises according to the patient’s progress. This adaptability is crucial to optimize rehabilitation outcomes.
  • Monitoring and data recording: As mentioned, therapeutic robots record precise data about the patient’s performance during rehabilitation sessions. The collected data form the basis for objective performance assessments and document compliance and progress. Furthermore, they promote data-driven therapy through artificial intelligence (AI). Additionally, virtual reality (VR), combined with haptics, provides therapists with customizable treatment options in secure environments.

At Inrobics, we contribute to the evolution of rehabilitation with robots

In the future, it is expected that robotic rehabilitation will continue to evolve and expand into new areas of application. Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics will enable the development of even more sophisticated robots tailored to the individual needs of each patient. Additionally, tele-rehabilitation and the use of communication technologies may open new possibilities for remote robotic therapy.

At Inrobics, we are contributing to this progress by continuously improving our innovative AI and social robot-based rehabilitation model. It is helping individuals with functional or neurological limitations significantly improve their quality of life. A testament to this is what we have achieved with our platform supported by the social robot Robic, Nao model, proprietary software, and an app. Thanks to this, it is feasible to conduct sessions fully adapted to the physical and cognitive conditions of the person. Moreover, the robot can recognize the person and create narratives based on their preferences.

Contact us and discover how our personalized robotic therapy can help children and adults in need!

Picture of José Carlos González

José Carlos González

PhD in Computer Science and Technology from UC3M, with research focused on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Over 8 years of experience as a researcher leading IT architecture. Academic visitor at Carnegie Mellon University, USA, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany. Extensive experience with control architectures for autonomous robots, planning, and machine learning. Leads and manages software and IT architecture. Possesses substantial experience and leadership in technology and innovation. Committed to developing technologies that enhance people’s quality of life and make healthcare more accessible and efficient for everyone.