Fusing electrical stimulation, wearable robots & humans to restore and enhance mobility
Eduard Fosch-Villaronga, Associate Professor at eLaw, contributed to 'Cyber–Physical–Human Systems', a book exploring the latest developments in interactions between cyber–physical systems and humans.
Participation in everyday life and life satisfaction are greatly affected by disabilities. Motor impairments caused by neurological disorders, like spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and multiple sclerosis, represent a significant burden for those affected and society. Wearable robotics and neuro-prostheses are two emerging technologies to recover mobility by generating lost movements or amplifying residual weak functions. The suppression of pain, elimination of spasticity, and movement restoration by spinal cord stimulation (i.e. neuromodulation) represent other indirect means for the mobilisation of the impaired.
Together with Dr Thomas Schauer from the Control Systems Group at the Technische Universität Berlin and Dr Juan C. Moreno, a PhD candidate from the Neural Rehabilitation Group at the Spanish National Research Council Cajal Institute, Dr Eduard Fosch-Villaronga wrote a chapter introducing the underlying basics of neuro-prostheses, spinal cord stimulation, and wearable robotics. The chapter also highlights recent technological developments with application examples and open challenges. These challenges include using various sensor technologies to recognise the user’s intention, generalised movement, muscular fatigue, and environmental disturbances. The authors discuss feedback and learning control as essential solutions for user-individual support and assist-as-needed behaviour and outlined hybrid approaches in evolving multi-modal actuation principles to combine the advantages and compensate for the disadvantages of the individual support modalities. They also provide examples of hybrid systems connecting wearable robots and electrical stimulation illustrate the current state of the art and research before discussing applicability and transfer to daily practice, which, Fosch-Villaronga remarks, does not come without drawbacks.