Robotics and medicine are combined to find a balance !
Nowadays, Robotics are everywhere. We can see them in our house, in our car and especially in the medical field. It’s towards the end of 1980s that the first medical robots were tested in USA patients in neurosurgery. Then, models and uses diversified.
BALANCE is a good example of innovation in this field. The purpose of the project is to realize a robotic exoskeleton that improves the balance performance of humans while walking and standing. The patients who lost their balance following a disease or an attack will be able to retrieve it !
• How will BALANCE function ?
The exoskeleton is Human-cooperative. It will help the patient to exercise but not totally control him ; « Depending on the application, the robot can only assist under difficult conditions, or in case of erroneous behaviour, or it can fully take over the postural balance control of a human user ». A consortium of specialists in exoskeleton equipment has joined the Project in order to achieve these objectives.
The major challenge is to know how to control collaboration between robotics and humans ; the scientist don’t want the exoskeleton to gain the control of the movements but just to accompany humans when necessary.
Image : http://balance-fp7.eu
• Psychological benefits
The health benefits of using exoskeletons are based on testimonies of patients. They gain autonomy and independence, more importantly they have better physical conditions !
Beyond the physical benefits, the possibility of looking at their interlocutors in the eyes will give the patient a better self-esteem and a psychological well-being.
• The funding
The BALANCE-Program is coordinated in Spain. It belongs to a European research project which aims at understanding and solving the problem of balance through robotics. The total costs of this innovation are 5 912 100 Euros. But only 4 494 323 euros was approved by the European Union.
The experiments will begin soon, however, it will take several years for this project to go public!