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Stroke is one of the most common major neurological disorders comprising half of all patients admitted to hospital for a neurological disease. A characteristic neurological impairment of stroke patients is the spastic hemiparesis of the limbs. Rehabilitation of paretic patients involves, among others, very intensive physiotherapy treatments. Antispastic physiotherapy is mediated exclusively by physiotherapists all over the world because sensation of and instant reaction to the patient's kinesthetic and mental status is required. The physical capabilities as well as the availability of the physiotherapist limit the realisation of effective physiotherapy in daily routine.

Robot mediated physiotherapy is a promising approach to support stroke rehabilitation. A robotic therapy system not only unburdens the physiotherapist from the routine rehabilitation load but also minimizes the time spent in performing repetitive physiotherapy exercises.

REHAROB is a robotic rehabilitation system for upper limb motion therapy for the disabled. In cooperation with partner institutions from several countries in a 5th Framework Project of the European Comission, the REHAROB project has been led by the Department of Manufacturing Engineering of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BUTE) and the Hungarian National Institute for Medical Rehabilitation. REHAROB provides personalized, three-dimensional motion therapy for patients with neuro-motor impairments. The system uses two robotic arms for controlled moving of the upper and lower arm respectively.

Our company has provided a special version of the UniForce 6-axis Force-Torque (FT) sensor system to support the project. Robot control is partially based on FT feedback from sensors mounted in the wrist of the robotic arms. A novel indirect force control method has been developed by the engineering team of BUTE for the programming of the robots. During the teaching phase the position controlled industrial robots behave as haptic devices: the physiotherapist freely exercises the patient while the robots follow and learn the trajectories. Based on a special algorithm, the UniForce directly provides the relative incremental motion coordinates to the robot controller in real-time. During playing back the robots behave as conventional position controlled devices and the 6-axis FT sensors monitor the exercising forces for safety purposes.
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