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Researchers from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have created a wearable assistive robot that can detect and stop a fall before it happens, reducing thus the risk of damage to the user

The National Robotics Program, a multi-agency national program that examines the end-to-end development of differentiated robotic enablers and solutions in Singapore, from funding research and development (R&D) to facilitating partnerships for translation and adoption to maximize socio-economic impact, served as a catalyst for the development of the robot, which can also be used to help patients recover from injuries.

The mobile robotic balance assistant, often known as MRBA (pronounced “Mister-Bah”), uses built-in sensors to instantly detect a user’s loss of balance, then catches them with a harness of security that is strapped around his hips.

Users who have difficulty walking and balancing would also benefit from the device assisting them to get up safely from a seated position and to sit down safely from a standing position. To better anticipate future imbalances or falls, it also uses a depth-sensing camera to track the user’s movements while machine learning algorithms assess the user’s state of balance in real time.

With aging, the human balance control system deteriorates. This is aggravated by conditions such as vertigo, neurological disorders, musculoskeletal problems such as ankle sprains, scoliosis or missing limbs. Falls are frequently caused by this loss of balance control, especially in the elderly.

Falling is the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury-related death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In Singapore, 40% of injury-related deaths are caused by falls.

It can help people with reduced mobility perform everyday tasks like getting dressed, opening doors, getting in and out of elevators, minor cooking tasks, and chores like watering plants. It is designed for use in institutional and residential settings with little assistance from caregivers.

Researchers found that MRBA was effective in helping people sit, stand, and walk, as well as perform tasks like fetching water, in clinical studies involving 29 participants, including including patients with stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. wounds. In the trials, which lasted three days for each participant, no falls were reported.

Technology offers a more effective tool to help support Singapore’s aging population, reflecting NTU and TTSH’s commitment to using technology and innovation to meet the demands and challenges of an aging population. good health, one of the four great challenges facing humanity. The university seeks to respond through its NTU 2025 strategic plan.

There are three MRBA models. Users of the first model who weigh up to 80 kilograms can use it, while those who weigh up to 120 kilograms can use the second model.

The Agile model, third generation, allows more fluid movements. The robot can support physical therapy consultations in addition to assisting users with daily tasks by assisting injured people with necessary rehabilitation activities such as sidestepping, balancing on a seesaw board, and stand on one leg.

Users experience greater confidence in performing everyday activities, including sports like bouncing and throwing a basketball, kicking a soccer ball, and even playing badminton, thanks to the balance aid that is provided.

To further develop the robot’s use case in home and public settings, the research team intends to expand the study and recruit 71 additional volunteers from day rehabilitation facilities.

For the robot to help people who need such balance and assistive solutions, the Rehabilitation Research Institute of Singapore (RRIS) team is also working with industry partners to commercialize the MRBA over the course of next year.

Sherry J. Basler