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In 1991, a novel robot named MIT-MANUS was introduced as a test bed to study the potential of using robots to assist in and quantify the neurorehabilitation of motor function. It introduced a new modality of therapy, offering a highly backdrivable experience with a soft and stable feel for the user. MIT-MANUS proved an excellent fit for shoulder and elbow rehabilitation in stroke patients, showing a reduction of impairment in clinical trials with well over 300 stroke patients. The greatest impairment reduction was observed in the group of muscles exercised. This suggests a need for additional robots to rehabilitate other target areas of the body. Previous work has expanded the planar MIT-MANUS to include an antigravity robot for shoulder and elbow, and a wrist robot. In this paper we present the ldquomissing linkrdquo: a hand robot. It consists of a single-degree-of-freedom (DOF) mechanism in a novel statorless configuration, which enables rehabilitation of grasping. The system uses the kinematic configuration of a double crank and slider where the members are linked to stator and rotor; a free base motor, i.e., a motor having two rotors that are free to rotate instead of a fixed stator and a single rotatable rotor (dual-rotor statorless motor). A cylindrical structure, made of six panels and driven by the relative rotation of the rotors, is able to increase its radius linearly, moving or guiding the hand of the patients during grasping. This module completes our development of robots for the upper extremity, yielding for the first time a whole-arm rehabilitation experience. In this paper, we discuss in detail the design and characterization of the device.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2007