Rehab system dangles patients below a robot
By Ben Coxworth
March 6, 2014
When a patient is undergoing rehab for a condition that compromises their gait or sense of balance, the process certainly isn't helped by the constant worry that they might fall. In fact, even the caregivers themselves can be injured when trying to move patients around. That's why California-based rehabilitative tech firm Bioness developed its Vector Gait and Safety System. It involves suspending the patient below a robotic trolley, that moves with them to hold them up.
Patients using the system wear a harness, which incorporates two shoulder straps that are attached to an overhead bar. That bar in turn has a cable running from it to a winch in the trolley. Using a wireless control unit, therapists can use that winch to pull harness-wearing patients up out of their wheelchairs, into a comfortable standing position.
When they subsequently try to walk (or perform other activities), the trolley is able to sense their movements, and will automatically move along its ceiling-mounted conductive rail to stay above them. If therapists prefer, however, they can also manually control the trolley's movements, using it to guide the patient instead of following them.
Parameters such as body weight support and degree of fall protection can be saved as patient profiles for subsequent sessions, plus they can be tweaked as the treatment program progresses. Additionally, the Vector software saves a record of each session (including things like the number of times it had to save the patient from falling), so that patients' progress can be tracked over time.
The system can support up to 400 lb (181 kg) of static weight or 200 lb (91 kg) of dynamic weight, and is powered by one standard electrical outlet. It can be seen in use in the video below.