A team of students from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in the US have developed a smartphone-enabled wearable that can help stroke patients undergoing rehabilitation.

The students are Indian nationals, Ashwin Raj Kumar and Sai Prasanth Krishnamoorthy, who were guided by NYU Tandon Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Vikram Kapila and Preeti Raghavan, M.D., of NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation Ambulatory Care Center.

The wearable consists of a jacket to measure arm placement, a glove to measure wrist and finger placement and finger joint angles, and a finger trainer. Each garment has microcontrollers attached to quantify the patient’s action, such as measuring grip strength, which connects to a smartphone to display the information.

The wearable uses gamification to engage with the patient, allowing them to observe the performance of the unaffected side of the body and mimic the same performance on the affected side.

The advancement of such smart technology boosts morale and allows stroke patients to move their rehabilitation outside of the clinical setting and into their own homes.  As such, exercising can be integrated into a patient’s day-to-day activities rather than treated as a separate, unwelcome task.

“Smartphone-integrated stroke rehabilitation is a marked improvement over the conventional treatment programmes of the past,” said Prof Kapila.

“The medical community acknowledges that while the central nervous system is highly adaptive and has the ability to regain functions with concerted effort, a patient must assiduously practice those regained skills. This makes stroke rehab a long and sometimes trying ordeal. Providing patients with immediate feedback and placing that feedback in the context of a virtual reality game that they can use within their own homes is definitely encouraging and motivational,” continued Prof Kapila.

Following their success of coming third in BMEidea, a competition for biomedical and bioengineering students, the team hopes to form a company with the patent-pending technology, which they’ll sell for under $1,000, and launch a startup at the NYU Tandon new-business incubators.

The team are currently refining their prototype and expect to shortly begin working with several patients from around the world.

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