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Athletes in Singapore treated by robot therapist

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A prototype robot is treating sports injuries at a clinic in Singapore.

The Expert Manipulative Massage Automation, or Emma, is a robotic arm capable of highly articulated movements, combined with a 3D-stereoscopic camera for vision, and a customised, fully rotatable 3D-printed massage tip. It includes safety features which work in tandem with advanced pressure sensors, designed to ensure patients´ comfort and safety.

The device was developed at AiTreat, a start-up incubated by Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore), and is currently undergoing user trials at medical institution Kin Teck Tong´s Sports Science and Chinese Medicine Clinic at the Kallang Wave Mall, using acupoint therapy to relieve muscle strains and injuries.

Albert Zhang, the creator of Emma, said the robotic arm can resolve some of the challenges faced by sports therapy clinics, such as a shortage of trained therapists and a need to deliver high quality therapy consistently.

“We have designed Emma as a clinically precise tool that can automatically carry out treatment for patients as prescribed by a physiotherapist or Chinese physician,” Zhang explained.

“Our aim is not to replace the therapists who are skilled in sports massage and acupoint therapy, but to improve productivity by enabling one therapist to treat multiple patients with the help of our robots.”

Emma has recommended guidelines for various sports injuries. Since patient trials started earlier this month it has treated around 50 patients with various conditions, such as tennis elbow, stiff neck and shoulders, lower back pain, and muscle strain.

“In our trials with the robot, the experience has been very good, as it can perform most treatments as well as our therapists,” said Coco Zhang, executive director of Kin Teck Tong.