An engineering researcher from New Zealand’s University of Auckland has been awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship.
The Associate Professor, who is developing a virtual therapy technology for personal rehabilitation, is one of eleven Fellows for 2019. The Fellowship provides NZ$ 800,000 in funding over five years.
According to a recent press release, his research combines leading-edge data techniques with wearable robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
The aim is to create devices that are capable of personalising rehabilitation and recovery plans, which are cheaper and more efficient than humans.
The Problem for Personal Rehabilitation
- Currently, rehabilitation after a medical event, such as stroke, is carried out by trained physical or occupational therapists.
- However, much of the work is physically demanding and the cost is relatively high and time-consuming.
- While some robotics devices used for physical rehabilitation have been developed overseas, they lag far behind what a human therapist is capable of.
- The current technology has little or no intelligence and can only act on predefined rules. Thus, it is not tailored to individuals and does not have the ability to adapt and learn as a human therapist would.
The Solution for Personal Rehabilitation
- The researcher’s work, meanwhile, takes a strongly data-driven approach, looking at the fundamental physiology of human movement.
- It will build on that information in order to create individual recovery plans that take into account the effects of a diverse range of physical impairments.
- The goal is to make real progress towards creating low-cost robotic ‘virtual therapists’ with the ability to deliver automatic but very precise treatments.
- The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, managed on behalf of the government by the New Zealand Royal Society Te Apārangi, aim to attract and retain talented early- to mid-career researchers by helping them establish a track record for future research leadership.
- The high costs of healthcare not just in New Zealand but around the world mean that progress in the area of medical technologies and personalised therapies and treatments needs to be prioritised.
In other news, the University was the site of a unique digital treasure hunt recently to mark Stress Less Week.
Stress Less week was held 7 to 11 October as thousands of students prepare to head into study break and exam period.
A student start-up developed the technology used in the app-based game, which challenged the students to unlock and solve riddles on the City Campus to find secret locations and discover rewards.
The start-up’s Founder explained that fun is the ultimate antidote to stress.
They provided an experience that facilitated getting out and connecting with peers, before it gets too close to exams and after the mid-semester wave of assignments.
They are passionate about using new technologies to turn cities into playgrounds, developing a portfolio of technologies in the process.
These technologies include holograms, face-recognition software and transparent glass screens, which they draw on to design interactive games.
Using the campus for a big treasure hunt is a great way to test the waters before thousands of dollars are put into more commercial ventures, and scale-up the app to use in different situations.