Suit full of sensors may boost stroke rehab

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The stroke patient-monitoring Interaction suit(Credit: University of Twente)

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After stroke patients finish their programs at rehabilitation clinics, it's important to know how they progress at home. That's why Bart Klaassen, a PhD student at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, developed the Interaction System. At the heart of the technology is a sensor-laden suit worn under the clothes, that transmits data to therapists via the internet.

The current version of the suit contains a total of 41 sensors. Among other things, these measure wearers' muscle strength, how much their backs and hands stretch, and the amount of force that's applied to the soles of their feet – all as they go about their daily activities in their homes.

A built-in transmitter relays readings from those sensors to data-processing servers at the university. These in turn use software to clean up the data, leaving therapists with the information that's most pertinent to the patient's continued rehabilitation. Additionally, it is hoped that feedback provided by the system could be used to improve existing clinic-based rehab programs.

"There has long been a great need for systems like this, but the technology simply was not ready," says Klaassen. "That is now changing rapidly, thanks to rapid developments in the fields of battery technology, wearables, smart e-textiles and big data analysis."

The Interaction System has already been tested on a group of test subjects, who wore the suit daily for three months. It was developed in partnership with a consortium of European companies and institutions.

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