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Soft Robotic Shoulder Support for Stroke Rehabilitation

A lightweight inflatable device to help people experiencing arm weakness from neuromuscular conditions regain shoulder mobility

The majority of stroke survivors have difficulty using their affected arm in everyday life. Commercial rehabilitation robots exist, but most are expensive, rigid, non-portable exoskeletons that can only be used in clinical rehabilitation settings. Portable devices could considerably increase the frequency and amount of robotic therapy, maximizing the recovery possible for patients with arm impairments. Soft wearable robots offer a potential solution, as they are lightweight, compliant, and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

The robotic soft shoulder device consists of a textile-based inflatable actuator anchored to the body within a comfortable compression garment. Upon inflation, the device aids in lifting the arm to counteract the effects of gravity. With the arm gently lifted, the user can work on completing repetitive movements needed to restore the body’s natural functions. Inextensible elements provide anchoring and force transmission around the torso. Zippers along the top of the sleeves help with donning the robot around the paretic limb.

The shoulder joint is challenging to assist due to its complex movement. Our team has already demonstrated that a soft wearable robot can fully support the arm movement through typical range of motions and we are now beginning to evaluate its potential with our clinical partners.

Conor Walsh

Like other soft wearable robots at the Wyss Institute, the inflatable shoulder support device is being developed using a “human-in-the-loop” approach by closely involving human subjects and patients at all stages of the process. This method enables step-by-step modifications that improve both the technical performance of the devices as well as facilitate their adoption in the personal and social contexts of the wearers’ lives.

The soft robotic shoulder support technology is available for licensing.

You can read about our Soft Robotic Glove technology here.

To obtain additional information or to learn more about our intellectual property portfolio or licensing opportunities, please contact us.

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