The Smart Magazine About Medical Technology Innovations

#24 - Innovations With Teeth

Soft, Squishy Robots for Rehab Exercise

A famous soft robot, the octo-bot (Courtesy of Science Museum)

Soft robots are trendy. Researchers in Switzerland have been working on novel prototypes that can be attached to a human body for medical purposes.

The robots are “squishy, compliant, light and customizable,” said a researcher at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in a video presentation. They mimic muscles and can stretch or bend in multiple directions.

To create them, the team used inexpensive, off-the-shelf materials such as paper, rubber, silicone and even fishing line. Combining these elements to give the robots different mechanical properties, the research team was able to tune tightness and movement to suit different applications.

They are currently working on applications in areas like biomedical rehabilitation in the form of wearable devices. For instance, they have created a belt for upper body postural support and rehab exercise. The belt holds a type of artificial muscle made of rubber tubing wrapped with a non-stretch filament and inflated with pressurized air. This allowed the artificial muscle to expand, contract or bend in specific ways.

About the Author

Celia Sampol has been a journalist for 15 years. She worked in Brussels and Washington for national media (Agence France Presse, Liberation). She's the editor-in-chief of NauticExpo e-magazine.

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