A University of Texas student and his professor are creating a robot they hope will change physical therapy forever.
HARMONY is an 80-pound machine made out of aluminum and plastic. University of Texas student Bongsu Kim built it with the help of his professor, Ashish Deshpande.
"HARMONY now has 14 cutting edge actuators that can control the robot to be weightless to the patient, so that it encourages the patient to do their voluntary motion,” Kim said.
It's also designed to mimic the upper body's natural movement. The goal is to help stroke patients and people with spinal or other neurological injuries move again.
"People are getting less and less therapy because of high cost of therapy, and they're being sent home even before they've recovered, which is unfortunate,” Deshpande said.
HARMONY is more than a project; it's a bionic helping hand.
"One of my close friends who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease had difficulty to have some rehabilitation,” Kim said. “From that point, I had interest in robotic technology to help people get more from recovery."
It’s recovery that blurs the line between science fiction and reality.
"With rehabilitation robot technology, I can help people directly to recover their health, to pursue their quality of life again,” Kim said. "I think the ultimate goal of engineering is to help humankind."
After four years of hard work, HARMONY is not finished quite yet. Kim is planning to do some minor tweaks on the robot before clinical testing starts in a couple of months.