Science

Wearable assistive robot developed to prevent falls in seniors in Singapore – Reuters

Researchers at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and Tan Tok Seng Hospital have created a wearable assistive robot that prevents falls and helps elderly people with physical therapy.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

The Mobile Balancing Assistant (MRBA) has sensors to immediately detect loss of balance and locks onto its wearer with a harness worn around the hips. This helps users to safely get up from a sitting position and sit down from a standing position.

The device can also predict potential falls by assessing the user’s steady state in real time using machine learning and a deep-sensor camera that monitors the user’s movements.

In addition, it helps people recovering from injuries to perform rehabilitation exercises such as stepping to the side, balancing on a swing, and standing on one leg.

According to the press release, the MRBA comes in three models: one designed for users weighing up to 80kg, another for people weighing up to 120kg, and a third for more flexible movements.

The assistive robot was tested on 29 participants, including patients with stroke, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury, for three days each. In tests, the MRBA has been successful in helping them sit, stand, and walk, as well as helping them with specific tasks such as fetching water. No falls were recorded during testing.

The research team plans to expand their study and recruit 71 additional participants from rehab centers to create a home and community use case for robots.

In addition to securing four MRBA patents, they are also working closely with industry partners to commercialize the technology by next year. The team has already shown interest in adopting this technology from home care providers Ninkatec and Home Place.

“In the near future, we hope to see the MRBA upgrade to an industrial prototype with a software data platform that will prepare it for commercialization,” added Karen Chua, co-development leader of the MRBA and assistant professor at NTU Lee. Kong Chian School of Medicine.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT

Falls happen in the elderly because the ability to maintain balance decreases with age. According to the World Health Organization, it is the second leading cause of injury death in the world. In Singapore, falls account for 40% of these deaths.

The MRBA was designed to help people with reduced or limited mobility perform everyday tasks such as getting in and out of elevators, opening doors, getting dressed, and performing simple kitchen tasks, among others.

It may also promote independent living and aging, said Ang Wei Teh, an assistant professor in NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering who oversaw the development of the technology.

MARKET REVIEW

Fall detection technology has evolved from pendants worn around the neck, to wearables that can be worn on the wrist and hips, and even to sensors attached to the walls of a room.

Late last year, Amazon partnered with Vayyar and an assistive technology service to add fall detection to your Alexa Together service. The new feature comes with wall-mounted fall detection sensors to complement the SkyAngelCare pendants worn by users.

Last June, the Australian wearable device developer Spacetalk has also introduced fall detection in its LIFE smartwatch for the elderly. Its smartwatch now includes smart accelerometer and gyroscope sensors that continuously record the user’s movement, speed, and altitude to improve fall detection accuracy.

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