Rehabilitation and Assistive Robotics
The goal of Rehabilitation Robotics is to investigate the application of robotics in motor therapy procedures for recovering motor control and motor capabilities in persons with impairment following such diseases as stroke, as well as to develop robotic and mechatronic technical aids for independent living for disabled and elderly people.
The recent advances of rehabilitation procedures, methodologies and tools tends to include more and more the cognitive aspects of motor control, also exploiting the new technologies for brain imaging, which allows to close the loop' from brain to action. This gives an increased role to robotics, which can be fruitfully employed in the rehabilitation of neuro-motor functions and motor capabilities, by providing tools that are in their nature flexible and programmable and that allow to set and assess procedures quantitatively. Robotic tools have been effectively applied not only to motor rehabilitation but also to support the psychological enrichment of the elderly.
At the same time, the development of assistive technology for the disabled and the elderly, after a period of a slow but steady scientific progress, seems to be mature for new research and application break-throughs by combining human-centred design methodologies with integrated micro-mechatronic and robotic systems. New important research projects in this field have been recently launched both at academic and industrial level worldwide, e.g. in Europe, Japan and Korea .
The growing interest in this area of robotics research is shown worldwide by the success of focused publications and events, like the special issue on rehabilitation robotics of the journal Autonomous Robots (2003), the ICORR conference (International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics), held biannually and the special sessions organized at latest ICRA, IROS, ICAR. The event promoted by the RAS jointly with the EMBS, the BioRob Conference (International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics), explicitly includes rehabilitation robotics among the main topics.