Mechanical engineering students at the University of Texas have developed robotic arms that can reportedly assist wearers with performing physical therapy movements.

Dubbed HARMONY, the robotic arms are the product of 4 years of research at the university’s ReNeu Robotics Lab, and they work by wrapping around a patient’s arms as an exoskeleton and moving with a patient’s arm movements, per a news story that appeared recently in the campus newspaper, The Daily Texan.

Mechanical engineering doctoral student BongSu Kim, lead designer at the lab, notes in the news story that the HARMONY robot can be programmed to guide a patients arms, provide additional movement support at various degrees depending on the patient’s needs, and record data during use.

The data that is recorded can be used by physical therapists to tailor treatment to an individual, per the story.

Kim explains in the news story that he does not expect HARMONY to be commercially available for at least 5 years or more. When it does become available, he expects it to cost approximately $250,000—which he says is the cost of a similar physical therapy robot on the market manufactured by Switzerland-based Hocoma.

However, Kim continues, HARMONY differs from the Hocoma robot because it is capable of fully rotating the shoulder.

“HARMONY has five axes on the shoulder, so it supports the full mobility of the human shoulder,” Kim says. “It’s important to support a wide range of motion to realize variety of types of rehabilitation exercise.”

HARMONY is currently in subject trials, according to mechanical engineering graduate student researcher Evan Ogden, in the news story. It will then need to pass trials in patients with neurological injuries before it can be brought to market, the story continues.

[Source: The Daily Texan]