In recent years there has been a surge of research interest in the use of robotic systems to deliver rehabilitation services for stroke patients. Consequently, Intelligent Automation, Inc., in partnership with the Chicago Rehabilitation Institute Research Corporation, is developing the Multi-Axis Cartesian-based Arm Rehabilitation Machine (MACARM) - a novel device for the quantitative assessment and rehabilitation of 6 Degree-Of-Freedom (DOF) arm movements following stroke. The MACARM will be the first ever device capable of measuring and training 6 DOF arm movements throughout the limb's entire workspace. This device will facilitate the direct quantitative assessment and training of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), something that is not possible with existing single and dual degree of freedom technology. In contrast to existing rehabilitation systems, the MACARM will provide the clinician full 6 DOF control over the arm's trajectory and mechanical environment and thus enable the application of virtually any conceivable movement or force pattern to the impaired limb. This innovation can promote and expedite the development of advanced therapeutic techniques that can result in greater functional recovery.
The technological approach embodied in the MACARM represents an effective and appropriate alternative to systems based on industrial-grade multi-degree of freedom robotic arms. Unlike multi-link robotic systems, the MACARM utilizes a geometric arrangement of relatively simple single DOF modules to achieve a large operating volume, stronger force, and positional performance. Accordingly, the MACARM will have a significant initial cost-advantage relative to competing devices. Moreover, the modular architecture of the MACARM simplifies system maintenance and repair, which will reduce operating costs and system downtime.
The eventual development of the MACARM into a commercially viable product will provide rehabilitation service providers and research scientists with an important new tool for assessing and rehabilitating disturbances of upper limb function resulting from brain injury. The capabilities of this device will provide a foundation for the development of novel treatment protocols for the rehabilitation of arm function. Ultimately, the ability to assess and train complex multi-joint motor function in 6 DOF is expected to result in more successful rehabilitation outcomes.