Another challenge is that physical therapy often requires daily hospital visits. Specialist home visits or sophisticated devices for remote patient monitoring, while ideal, are unavailable and expensive.
Customizable wearable for stroke rehabilitation
To address these challenges, the IISc team developed a mechanism by which customizable wearables such as gloves can be engineered, 3D printed and remotely controlled.
“The idea behind the device is that you put on something like a glove, the physiotherapist controls the device from a remote location via the internet and makes your hands and fingers move. dynamic,” said Aveek Bid, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics, whose team developed the device.
The device can sense different hand and finger movements, and accurately detect parameters such as pressure, bending angle and shape.
“We wanted to develop something that was affordable and available to people at their convenience. The product had to be easy to use and had to provide feedback,” said Bid, adding that Quantifiable feedback – for example, units of pressure applied during a ball squeeze or the degree of flexion of the leg during a knee injury – is important for physicians to monitor patients, even remotely. Such feedback can also motivate patients to perform better in each ongoing session.
Device control technology is based on the basic characteristics of light. A light source is placed at one end of transparent rubber material, the other end has a light detector. Any movement in the patient’s finger or arm causes the flexible material to deform, changing the light’s path and thus its properties. The device converts this change in light characteristics to a quantifiable unit. Because light travels through the entire length of the device, movement along any part of the patient’s finger or arm can be accurately measured.
Abhijit Chandra Roy, DST-Inspire research team member in the Department of Physics and Brains behind the project, says the device is highly sensitive – enough to respond to the touch of a butterfly.
Additionally, while existing devices can only detect finger flexion, the new device can even measure the degree of flexion at every finger joint, he said.
For their device, the researchers used a polymer material made of transparent silicon (to facilitate light control), soft (for comfort and repeated use). and most importantly 3D printed; it can therefore be customized to fit each patient’s arm and finger. The device can also collect and store data and transmit it over the internet, facilitating remote monitoring by the clinician or physiotherapist.
The researchers say that the device has been tested for stability for more than 10 months and has found no loss of sensitivity or accuracy. Bid adds that the device is designed and manufactured entirely in India, and is expected to cost under Rs 1,000. A patent has been filed for this device and the researchers hope to hit the market soon. The method can also be extended to applications such as augmented reality and real-time, the IISc release states.