My research focuses on technologies which can be used to improves the lives of those with movement impairment.
In particular, I focus on two aspects of this wide and multidisciplinary field — (1) what does the technology physically need to do, based on physical and neuromotor principles; and (2) what do the users needs and expectations of the device?
These questions have been explored on a number of projects:
Towards Fluid Lower Limb Assistive Exoskeletons
Lower limb exoskeletons to assist those spinal cord injuries have been explored for decades (see this amazing video from the 1970s!), but improvements in battery and actuator technology have seen an explosion of these devices in the last couple of decades (see the exoskeletons by Rewalk, Ekso Bionics, Indego, Fourier Intelligence, among many others). They are increasingly being used as rehabilitative devices in the smooth floors and well-controlled environments of the clinic, however, they are not yet capable of dealing with the randomness of ambulation we experience every day. My work explores how this can occur in a fluid manner – including how the exoskeleton needs to change its movements, and how the user can communicate his or her intention to the exoskeleton.
Increasing the Viability of Upper Limb Rehabilitation Robotics
This application aims to use technologies in the rehabilitation of the upper limb (i.e. the arm and hand) after a neurological injury, such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury. The objective of these technologies, therefore, is to promote recovery of movement capabilities amongst these individuals.
Whilst rehabilitation robotics have been around for a number of years, they are yet to see mainstream adoption. I believe that whilst technical challenges still exist, our current level of technical can be useful within a clinical setting – if it is understood and used correctly.
The Armsleeve – What does the arm do during non-clinical hours?
Due to their size and expense, robotic devices are most commonly used in the clinic, where the clinician can typically keep a close eye on the exercises being performed by the patient. However, most patients spend more time outside the clinic rather than in it, and it is movements performed during these times which can have a significant effect on the treatment outcomes. Within the Armsleeve project, we explore how wearable sensors can be used to monitor and report out-of-clinic arm activity, and how this information can best be used to improve patient outcomes.