uBot-5: New Hope For Stroke Patients

Photo Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Photo Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst

There may be a new hope for stroke patients who are in rural and isolated areas since the uBot-5 can take the role of a speech and physical therapist, a report on CNET said.

Although a humanoid bot is not the ideal therapist for any stroke patient, it does provide benefits that followers of traditional medicines do not see. Therapists can be hard to come by for those who suffered from stroke and are currently living in rural and remote areas. There is a serious shortage of physical therapists operating in small villages and communities.

Instead of hiring a personal therapist who will stay by a stroke patient’s side 24/7, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found a way to make their plight easier. Yu-kyong Choe, a speech language pathologist, said in the CNET report that a single study of a 72-year-old male stroke patient proved that uBot-5 can help alleviate his situation.

This robot has arms and computer screen through which a therapist will be able to interact and communicate with his/her patients.

In fact, the robot was able to help the patient do some word-retrieval games and arm movement activities. A case study of Choe’s research appeared in the current issue of Aphasiology.

The said patient, who was suffering from physical disabilities and aphasia, went under speech and physical therapy from a robot for several weeks. After the sessions, he said that there is a noticeable gain in the movements of his upper limbs.

Further Studies

Although a single sample size cannot prove anything just yet, Choe said that the results of the robot’s therapy session with the stroke patient demands that the technology be further subjected into tests. As one of the earliest experiments using a robot for therapy, this only shows how close we are to discovering how we can integrate robot-specific functions in our daily lives.

Choe and robot expert Rod Grupen, director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Laboratory for Perceptual Robotics, received a grant from the American Heart Association to develop the robot’s abilities to help stroke patients. They are currently in their second year of research.

With an estimated three million people suffering from stroke in the United States, Choe and Grupen hope that in the long term, their research will change these people’s lives for the better.

A Contract with the People

Once this technology is developed, it will rake in billions for any company that will back it up. However, if Choe and Grupen remain true to their words, the goal of developing this robot is for people to have an easier access to treatments and therapy sessions.

The researchers said that although intensive therapies can help patients recover from stroke, this process is expensive and mostly not covered by health insurances. As a result, stroke patients may sometimes go into depression because of their plights. The uBot-5 is aiming for a win-win situation wherein patients can live longer and healthier lives while resources from the health care system can save billions that it can put into other use.

Source: CNET

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