Bionic joint to help stroke patients
Scientists from the University of Auckland’s Bioengineering Institute (ABI) are collaborating with the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, Germany to create human exoskeletons that will reduce workplace injury and assist stroke patients.
The Bionic Joint is a project that will integrate the latest wearable sensor technology from the University of Auckland with mechanisms that enable movement provided by researchers at Franhofer IPA.
The device will sense and assist movements of the arm and could be used to help lift heavy objects or perform repetitive tasks. In this way it could help to reduce the risk of injury for people doing a lot of manual lifting. Stroke sufferers who need assistance to move in a smooth and coordinated manner could also use the device, and it would improve their motion patterns and help with rehabilitation.
The ABI has spun out two wearable sensor companies in the last two years, StretchSense and IMeasureU. Both startups have gone on to be winners at the NZ Innovators Awards in 2013 and 2014.
StretchSense makes “rubber bands with Bluetooth sensors” that accurately and comfortably measure human movement. IMeasureU designs and manufactures miniature inertial sensors for monitoring performance and reducing risk of injury.
Bionic Joint will integrate both these technologies to produce a unique wearable sensing device to measure and monitor arm movements.
Fraunhofer’s expertise in actuators and motors will help put the exoskeleton in motion and drive its movements. With advanced high-tech research and large-scale manufacturing capabilities, Germany will continue to be a key research partner.
The project stemmed from an MBIEfunded visit to Fraunhofer IPA and the University of Stuttgart organised by Professors Xun Xu and Peter Xu from the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Engineering.
In 2013, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment funded a series of workshops between Auckland and Fraunhofer on the topics of robotics, mechatronics and biomedical engineering as part of the New Zealand-Germany Scientific and Technological Co-operation (STC) Agreement Programme.
Professor Peter Hunter, along with Associate Professors Iain Anderson and Thor Besier, will manage the New Zealand end of the project.