University of Melbourne : Careers Guide 2012
for humans If you like mechanical engineering and you’re fascinated by the human body, there’s a growing area where the two interests come together. A robotic arm being used in physiotherapy. GettyImages The study of robotics, biomechanics and virtual simulations are coming together as a means of helping rehabilitate patients. When combined with broadband technology, these systems can be designed for remote access through a computer. For example, the Melbourne University Virtual Environments for Simulations group (MUVES) has developed a low-cost in-home tele-rehabilitation system to assist stroke patients. Of those who suffer strokes, 85% have some initial loss of arm function, and early rehabilitation of the arm and hand after a stroke can be highly effective. For a number of reasons, arm training has often been given a lower priority than walking training in hospitals and clinics, with a recent study finding that only 6% of rehabilitation time is allocated to the affected arm, even though hand function has a huge impact on a person’s ability to lead an independent life. Using broadband technologies to provide alternative rehabilitation methods for stroke survivors could significantly improve healthcare outcomes. The prototype system from MUVES involves a MAKE IT HAPPEN Master of Health Sciences or Master of Engineering Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Biomedicine FIRST DEGREE GR ADUATE STUDY OPTIONS ‘rehabilitation robot’ being placed in the patient’s home. The robot makes use of haptic technology that provides ‘force feedback ’ over a broadband connection. This enables physiotherapists to understand how patients are exercising, even though they are in another location. Remote monitoring of patients through broadband connections has many other possibilities still to be explored. For instance, the Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society (IBES) and Ericsson HEALTH & WELLBEING fund researchers at the University of Melbourne who are developing a device to wirelessly monitor patients with knee osteoarthritis. The device consists of small inertial sensors, accelerometers and a gyroscope connected to the patient’s body to monitor joint movements. The data is transmitted to an Android smartphone carried by the patient and then transmitted back to a server, allowing real-time recording of movements to help the patient with their physiotherapy. » Fact 60,000 The annual number of Australians who have a stroke (approx.) $2.14 billion The cost of the above to the health system.