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Electrical and Computer Engineering

College of Engineering and Applied Science

Dr. John McInroy's Research

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Rehabilitation Robotics

Dr. John McInroy, faculty and department head of University of Wyoming Electrical and Computer EngineeringThe U.S. has a critical need for alternative supervised and unsupervised physical therapy rehabilitation strategies. The lack of rehabilitation professionals, long distance travel, and expenses force many of the patients in Wyoming and elsewhere to skip entirely (or inadequately perform) post-operative or traumatic physical therapy (PT) sessions. The number and complexity of exercises makes the exercises difficult to remember accurately under ideal circumstances, and even more difficult when coupled with anesthetic, age, and/or trauma induced memory limitations. In many cases, physical therapy is a very long process that can be monotonous and discouraging.  This is accentuated in the elderly due to longer healing times.  Furthermore, the outcome of exercises performed either at home or at an inadequately staffed community healthcare facility is, at a minimum, less effective but frequently the outcome is substantially worse with re-injury occurring.
Photo above: A two arm manipulator for general PT
Contributing factors include poor self-reporting assessment techniques and little means to ensure patients are performing exercises correctly, sufficiently, or at all. Patients may not be able to accurately rate their own physical functioning, affective sense of well-being, and experience with pain. As a result, under self-reporting may result in treatment too advanced for patient’s conditions and over self-reporting may result in delayed advancement of treatment. Similarly, patients underperforming exercises may result in delayed recovery and over-performing exercises may result in further injury. Additionally, patient safety is an issue if patients do not have a means to check their actions as they are performing them and physical therapists should be able to better monitor those actions and provide feedback. All these facts have a deleterious effect on patient compliance and therefore the long term outcome. Alternate tools are required to multiply the capabilities of medical personnel so more patients can be given higher quality treatment at lower overall cost.
Dr. John McInroy, faculty and department head of University of Wyoming Electrical and Computer EngineeringOur research group is bringing together expertise in computer vision, robotics, networks, virtual reality, visualization, and health science to develop rehabilitation robots for helping patients restore functional ability, strength, mobility, quality of life and independent living.
The current focus of the group is to develop a general approach for supervised robotic physical rehabilitation, deriving new methods to optimally combine fault tolerant/fail safe manipulator control, redundant visual/low level sensing, and immersive 3-D visualization to guarantee patient safety and provide novel monitoring, assessment, and therapy revision tools for the physical therapist. 
Two robotic systems are under development to address a wide variety of needs.  A direct drive parallel robot useful for small, carefully controlled motions (left) and a two arm anthropomorphic robot for large motion PT tasks.  
Photo above: A custom designed parallel robot for wrist therapy

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