TIBAR ‘Therapist inspired balance assisting robot’

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Stroke survivors who are classified with a Functional Ambulation Category (FAC) of 2, typically are able to ambulate on level surfaces, but intermittently require manual contact of a physical therapist to assist their balance during walking. In order to execute Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s), patients require a level of walking independence where no physical balance assistance is needed. Physical therapists use training to improve gait. During these training sessions, patients are able to move freely and only receive balance assistance (support) when they are not able to keep themselves upright. Providing balance assistance not only allows patients to continue their training safely, it also lets them experience the boundaries of their abilities without actually falling.

Even though gait training was found to be effective for stroke survivors in terms of regaining functional independence, the one-on-one contact with the patient and the constant need for supervision limits the training volume of patients. Patients benefit, among other aspects, from a training environment where sufficient training hours can be made at a suitable training intensity. Specifically, as our population is aging and consequently the number of patients is increasing, an even higher burden is put on the training volume of patients in the near future, thereby limiting their rehabilitation effectiveness. A solution that is expected to positively contribute to such a situation is the use of a robotic training device that supports balance, with which patients can undertake additional training hours in a self-administered training environment and that does not ask for the direct presence of a therapist during the training.

The development of such a device was described in this thesis: The TIBAR (Therapist Inspired Balance Assisting Robot). The TIBAR is a robotic device that provides balance assistance to patients at times when they are not able to keep themselves balanced. The device could be used in a self-administered way and must be used on a treadmill. An augmented reality environment could additionally be used on the treadmill to adapt the level of training exercises to the abilities of the patient.

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