Rehab robotic system plays Tic Tac Toe with patients
Robotic arm simulates functional activities and perform actions that people undertake daily, like drinking from a cup, which are often a focus of rehabilitation.
As robotics and automation become more commonplace in the workforce, researchers are looking for new and unique ways to expand their capabilities.
A team from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beer-Sheva, Israel have demonstrated for the first time the feasibility of a robotic system by demonstrating its ability to perform real-life tasks, like playing Tic Tac Toe with rehabilitation patients.
The goal of the robotic arm is to simulate functional activities and perform actions that people undertake daily, like drinking from a cup, which are often a focus of rehabilitation.
One of biggest challenges for the team is determining optimal conditions for the robot for the best results in helping to rehabilitate a patient.
“Playing Tic Tac Toe with a set of cups (instead of X’s and O’s) is one example of a game that can help rehabilitate an upper limb,” says Dr. Shelly Levy-Tzedek of BGU’s Department of Physical Therapy, and Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience. She adds that a patient can focus on the game rather than rehabilitation, while still developing and improving their performance.
Researchers compared study participants’ motivation to play with a robot vs. a set of computer-controlled LED lights to determine the importance of interacting with an actual physical robot.
They tested the system on 62 healthy right-handed people from two age groups: a group of young adults around 25 years old and older adults around 75 years old. Both groups preferred the robotic system over the LED lights system.
The older adults said it was more human-like, while the young adults reported the robot “was more interesting, fun and appealing.”
Although the robot system was preferred by both groups, when playing multiple games, young adults opted to switch to the LED light system.
“Some of the young adults complained that the robot moved too slowly; therefore, they preferred the quicker system when asked to play many more games,” says Dr. Levy-Tzedek. “That indicates a need to personalize the speed of the robot to each participant.”
An unexpected finding was that the robot’s movement influenced human movement — people are willing to continue to interact with a robotic device in a social-like setting, and that embodiment plays an important role, which is a positive sign for the future of such systems.
The research was published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.