Based on an analysis of the patient by a thermal camera, a collaborative robot applies targeted laser therapy to pain "hot spots." Source: Swinburne University of TechnologyBased on an analysis of the patient by a thermal camera, a collaborative robot applies targeted laser therapy to pain "hot spots." Source: Swinburne University of TechnologyResearchers at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, in conjunction with IR Robotics, have developed a collaborative robot that is capable of treating soft tissue injuries in patients.

According to the research team, patients suffering from the neck, back or head pain often associated with soft tissue injuries could soon be treated by robots applying targeted laser therapy to pain “hot spots.” This process, known as automated photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy for chronic pain, targets light emitting diodes (LEDs) or low-level lasers to injured body areas to stimulate and treat injured soft tissue.

To operate, a thermal camera scans a patient, locating inflammation and injuries through the hot spots identified in thermal images. Once identified, the hot spot location is communicated to the collaborative robot, which then moves a low-level infrared laser to the hot spot location to perform the treatment.

The team has developed a fully operational prototype of the collaborative robot that is designed to work alongside humans. The prototype is both power- and speed-limited, which prevents it from colliding with humans in the workspace as they go about locating pain hot spots.

"Studies have shown PBM therapy to have positive effects on chronic pain symptoms," said Dr. Mark Rogers, a co-founder of IR Robotics and one of the Australian pioneers of PBM therapy.

"Introducing collaborative robots to deliver treatment has the potential to improve the precision of the therapy in addition to reducing costs involved. Building on Industry 4.0 technologies and big data analysis, the derived platform can self-adapt to provide individually optimal treatment," Dr. Rogers added.

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