Singapore Institute of Technology
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Mobile Robotic Balance Assistant (MRBA): a gait assistive and fall intervention robot for daily living

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posted on 2024-06-28, 03:24 authored by Lei Li, Ming Jeat Foo, Jiaye Chen, Kuan Yuee Tan, Jiaying Cai, Rohini Swaminathan, Karen Sui Geok Chua, Seng Kwee WeeSeng Kwee Wee, Christopher Wee Keong Kuah, Huiting Zhuo, Wei Tech Ang

Background

Aging degrades the balance and locomotion ability due to frailty and pathological conditions. This demands balance rehabilitation and assistive technologies that help the affected population to regain mobility, independence, and improve their quality of life. While many overground gait rehabilitation and assistive robots exist in the market, none are designed to be used at home or in community settings.

Methods

A device named Mobile Robotic Balance Assistant (MRBA) is developed to address this problem. MRBA is a hybrid of a gait assistive robot and a powered wheelchair. When the user is walking around performing activities of daily living, the robot follows the person and provides support at the pelvic area in case of loss of balance. It can also be transformed into a wheelchair if the user wants to sit down or commute. To achieve instability detection, sensory data from the robot are compared with a predefined threshold; a fall is identified if the value exceeds the threshold. The experiments involve both healthy young subjects and an individual with spinal cord injury (SCI). Spatial Parametric Mapping is used to assess the effect of the robot on lower limb joint kinematics during walking. The instability detection algorithm is evaluated by calculating the sensitivity and specificity in identifying normal walking and simulated falls.

Results

When walking with MRBA, the healthy subjects have a lower speed, smaller step length and longer step time. The SCI subject experiences similar changes as well as a decrease in step width that indicates better stability. Both groups of subjects have reduced joint range of motion. By comparing the force sensor measurement with a calibrated threshold, the instability detection algorithm can identify more than 93% of self-induced falls with a false alarm rate of 0%.

Conclusions

While there is still room for improvement in the robot compliance and the instability identification, the study demonstrates the first step in bringing gait assistive technologies into homes. We hope that the robot can encourage the balance-impaired population to engage in more activities of daily living to improve their quality of life. Future research includes recruiting more subjects with balance difficulty to further refine the device functionalities.

History

Journal/Conference/Book title

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation

Publication date

2023-03-01

Version

  • Published

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