Compliant tensegrity robots will enable the expansion of medical robots to direct in-home assistive and rehabilitative medical services. Of particular importance is the potential for home health care with our aging population. As of 2010, over 40 million or 13.0% of the U.S. population was of age 65 or older . It is expected that the population for the same age group will be over 92 million or 21.9% of the U.S. population by 2060 . In the meantime, the nation has been chronically short in meeting the demand for nursing professionals . To date, significant amounts of research and development have been performed on robots for health care, such as in-hospital delivery systems [3, 4, 5, 6], specialized rehabilitation machines [7, 8], and surgical robots [9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15], all of which operate in highly structured hospital settings.
Relatively fewer robots have been built for home assistance [16, 17, 18], with complex collision avoidance algorithms to increase safety. The future will involve direct in-home robotic assistance, which requires robots to be able to safely move through the potentially cluttered and constrained spaces of peoples homes, while safely supporting and interacting with the patient and other family members and pets. This level of competency requires structurally compliant systems capable of adapting to constrained spaces and softly contacting the environment.
Tensegrity robots have the potential for this level of adaptability and safety, and the development of flexible tensegrity spines will enable such robots to easily maneuver through constrained spaces without injuring others, yet also provide the load bearing capability to assist patients with their daily tasks and rehabilitation activities. We are also exploring their use for search and rescue.
See more on updates on the ULTRAspine quadruped robot.
See more on biotensegrities.
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Image caption from: Fascial Fitness: Training in the Neuromyofascial Web, http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/fascial-fitness