Robotic sleeves could help children with cerebral palsy

The main types of cerebral palsy (Credit: cerebralpalsyscotland.org.uk)

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disease disability in children. The condition, which affected about 1 in 345 children can make daily activities like walking, eating or even lifting a cup difficult. A team of researchers from the University of California at Riverside (UCR) hopes to relieve the daily struggles with robotic clothing that will allow children with cerebral palsy to better control their arm movements.

Portable robotic units, such as exoskeletonsto help people mobility the problems have existed for many years. However, they are rigid and uncomfortable to wear. The UCR team plans to use lightweight materials to create a cheap, durable, and most importantly, robotic sleeve comfortable to wear everyday.

“Hard materials interact well with humans,” said Jonathan Realmuto, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UCR and project leader. “What we are aiming for by using materials like nylon and elastic are essentially robotic clothing.”

A concept illustration of the UCR robotic sleeve. (Jonathan Realmuto/UCR)

The scientists consider robotic sleeves to have sealed areas that can be swollen. Once filled with air, they would become temporarily rigid and provide the necessary force for movement. The clothes will be equipped with sensors at detect small muscle contractions and to anticipate what the wearer wants to do. The swollen the bladders will then help move the arm to complete the intended stock.

“If we can help kids brush their teeth, pour water or open doors, actions others take for granted, that’s a huge win for them,” Realmuto said in a statement. Press release. “But it’s also a huge win for their families and caregivers.”

UCR engineers aren’t the only ones working on soft robotic clothing to help motor people disabled. San Francisco-based startup CIONIC is on equal footing assignment. The company’s first product, the CIONIC Neural Sleeve, is designed to improve mobility for people with conditions like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. Jeremiah Robison, the founder of CIONIC, was inspired to develop the product after watching his daughter battle cerebral palsy.

Resources: eandt.theiet.org, engadget.com.