Innovation for Independence

Textile Based Assistive Wearable Robot

Publish date:
16/01/2015 - 11:29am
Last updated:
16/01/2015 - 11:29am

Recent advances in exoskeletons have demonstrated how wearable robotic can enable paralytics to walk again. People with Parkinson’s disease (PD) may potentially benefit from such technology to assist their mobility. However, as exoskeleton is mainly designed to provide physical body support to the user, the powerful and heavy mechanical system is not suitable for people with PD. A textile based wearable robot is proposed as a mobility assistive device. This new technology will be developed with a number of novel approaches: - Textile based structure – the robot will be designed based on textile and soft materials, so that it will appear like normal clothes which is easy to wear, pervasive and could avoid stigma. - Artificial tendons – metal or reinforced nylon wires will be weaved into the fabric of the clothes to act as artificial tendons which can dampen tremors and smooth the rigid movements. - Textile sensors – sensors, such as Electromyography, inertial measurement unit, etc., will also be weaved into the textile to detect muscle activation, stress level, the level of tremors, etc. - Real-time passive control – the robot movements will be activated based on the user’s intention by capturing the relevant parameters from the textile sensors.

Insight & Impact

There are about 120,000 people in the UK with Parkinson’s disease (PD). People with Parkinson’s are often suffering from tremor, rigidity and bradykinesia which hinder their mobility and affect their daily life. Although there are pharmacotherapies which could help alleviate the symptoms, the drugs often induce side effects and could become less effective over time. Another approach to manage the condition is through deep brain stimulation (DBS). Recent studies have shown that patients with DBS implanted have shown remarkable improvement of their mobility and they can return to live a normal life. However, DBS have to be implanted into patients’ brain through major brain surgeries, and it can only treat very small percentage (around 1-5%) of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Since DBS is still a relatively new approach, the long term effect on the patient is still yet to be determined. The proposed wearable robot technology could provide the assistance needed to the people with Parkinson’s disease to reduce the effect of tremor and rigidity, to support them to carry out daily activities and to enable them to live an active independent life.