In these times of social distancing and limiting physical contact, a team at Simon Fraser University in the Vancouver area of Canada is studying ways for doctors to practice … without touching their patients too much. In short: they are testing the feasibility of robot-practitioners, capable of automatically recording certain physiological data.
3D printing to create an “intelligent” sole
Teacher-researcher in materials engineering at the university’s Faculty of Mechatronics, Woo Soo Kim used 3D printing to create an “intelligent” sole in a composite material incorporating copper filaments. These form ten sensors that capture the pressure of the sole of the foot. The data thus collected make it possible to study the person’s gait and to determine whether the person has plantar fasciitis, namely an inflammation which has the consequence of preventing the person from walking normally under pain of pain. The sole maps the areas where the foot presses and makes it possible to compare with the areas where it should be pressing.
Sensors at the tip of three fingers
This work was published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologys of March 2021. They also include, and above all, a robotic hand whose fingers mimic the properties of human fingers in terms of rigidity and articulation. It picks up the electrical signals given off by moving muscles, called an electromyogram (EMG). To do this, the team placed electrodes at the end of three of the fingers of the hand (index, middle, ring finger) which rests on the patient’s skin.
Muscle signals were also picked up by a conventional electromyograph for comparison: both processes produced the same results. “The number of sensors depends on what you want to detect, says Woo Soo Kim. For an EMG or an EKG, we need three. To measure the temperature, we only need an electrode on a finger. ” The team is getting ready to adapt their robot for blood pressure.