Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Rajni V. Patel


Motivation: Current statistics show that the population of seniors and the incidence rate of age-related neuromuscular disorders are rapidly increasing worldwide. Improving medical care is likely to increase the survival rate but will result in even more patients in need of Assistive, Rehabilitation and Assessment (ARA) services for extended periods which will place a significant burden on the world's healthcare systems. In many cases, the only alternative is limited and often delayed outpatient therapy. The situation will be worse for patients in remote areas. One potential solution is to develop technologies that provide efficient and safe means of in-hospital and in-home kinesthetic rehabilitation. In this regard, Haptics-enabled Interactive Robotic Neurorehabilitation (HIRN) systems have been developed.

Existing Challenges: Although there are specific advantages with the use of HIRN technologies, there still exist several technical and control challenges, e.g., (a) absence of direct interactive physical interaction between therapists and patients; (b) questionable adaptability and flexibility considering the sensorimotor needs of patients; (c) limited accessibility in remote areas; and (d) guaranteeing patient-robot interaction safety while maximizing system transparency, especially when high control effort is needed for severely disabled patients, when the robot is to be used in a patient's home or when the patient experiences involuntary movements. These challenges have provided the motivation for this research.

Research Statement: In this project, a novel haptics-enabled telerobotic rehabilitation framework is designed, analyzed and implemented that can be used as a new paradigm for delivering motor therapy which gives therapists direct kinesthetic supervision over the robotic rehabilitation procedure. The system also allows for kinesthetic remote and ultimately in-home rehabilitation. To guarantee interaction safety while maximizing the performance of the system, a new framework for designing stabilizing controllers is developed initially based on small-gain theory and then completed using strong passivity theory. The proposed control framework takes into account knowledge about the variable biomechanical capabilities of the patient's limb(s) in absorbing interaction forces and mechanical energy. The technique is generalized for use for classical rehabilitation robotic systems to realize patient-robot interaction safety while enhancing performance. In the next step, the proposed telerobotic system is studied as a modality of training for classical HIRN systems. The goal is to first model and then regenerate the prescribed kinesthetic supervision of an expert therapist. To broaden the population of patients who can use the technology and HIRN systems, a new control strategy is designed for patients experiencing involuntary movements. As the last step, the outcomes of the proposed theoretical and technological developments are translated to designing assistive mechatronic tools for patients with force and motion control deficits.

This study shows that proper augmentation of haptic inputs can not only enhance the transparency and safety of robotic and telerobotic rehabilitation systems, but it can also assist patients with force and motion control deficiencies.