Robots with a gentle touch: advances in assistive robotics and prosthetics
Harwin, W. S. (1999) Robots with a gentle touch: advances in assistive robotics and prosthetics. Technology and Health Care, 7 (6). pp. 411-417. ISSN 1878-7401
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As healthcare costs rise and an aging population makes an increased demand on services, so new techniques must be introduced to promote an individuals independence and provide these services. Robots can now be designed so they can alter their dynamic properties changing from stiff to flaccid, or from giving no resistance to movement, to damping any large and sudden movements. This has some strong implications in health care in particular for rehabilitation where a robot must work in conjunction with an individual, and might guiding or assist a persons arm movements, or might be commanded to perform some set of autonomous actions. This paper presents the state-of-the-art of rehabilitation robots with examples from prosthetics, aids for daily living and physiotherapy. In all these situations there is the potential for the interaction to be non-passive with a resulting potential for the human/machine/environment combination to become unstable. To understand this instability we must develop better models of the human motor system and fit these models with realistic parameters. This paper concludes with a discussion of this problem and overviews some human models that can be used to facilitate the design of the human/machine interfaces.