June 20, 2017

Innovations in medical robotics at MT-CONNECT 2017

  • MT-CONNECT 2017, the medical technology trade show, is being held from June 21 to 22 in Nuremberg. The DLR stand is in Hall 10.0, booth 206.
  • The DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics is presenting projects relating to medical robotics and prosthetics.
  • Focus: robotics, medicine and digitalisation.

The Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) develops robots that are intended to support and relieve humans. They are expected to enable us to interact with our environment more efficiently and safely. This applies to work in dangerous and inaccessible areas as well as in everyday life. A specific type of contact between humans and machines is being developed in medical robotics. Robotic technologies can make life for patients easier and ease the workload on doctors and therapists – in all sorts of ways. The DLR institute is presenting its latest projects at MT-CONNECT, the medical technology trade show, in Nuremberg on June 21 to 22.

MIRO Innovation Lab

The MIRO Innnovation Lab is being presented to the public for the first time at the trade fair. It represents a special cooperation platform focused on robot-supported medicine. The aim is to enable close cooperation between research, clinical partners and industry. The Innovation Lab is a format newly established by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. At its site in Oberpfaffenhofen, ideas can be exchanged and prototypes tested in a real environment and brought to market maturity. As a result, SMEs especially gain access to the highly dynamic medical technology market.

The core technological elements include the DLR MIRO robotic arm, which was developed specifically for use in the operating theatre. Its design, size and movability is modelled on the human arm, so it can be operated intuitively, precisely and safely. Thanks to the special soft robotics control technology, the user can feel every movement and contact made by the robotic arm. In addition, up to three MIRO arms can be used flexibly with various instruments during surgery. Hence, the system is versatile in how it can be used, such as for guiding a laser unit for precise incisions, for robot-assisted endoscope guidance and in minimally invasive surgery.

The technical know-how of the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics is enhanced with specific clinical expertise in the MIRO Innovation Lab. As a key partner, the group for minimally invasive interdisciplinary therapeutic medicine (MITI) is already present at the University Hospital rechts der Isar of the Technical University Munich. The group consists of surgeons, engineers and gastroenterologists. The collective skills from research, clinics and industry have now been brought together in the MIRO Innovation Lab and made available to interested partners for projects.

Film: DLR Virtual Therapy Arm (VITA) project (medium resolution)
Therapy and training system in virtual reality: VITA enables patients with amputations of the upper limbs to carry out virtual mirror therapy or phantom pain therapy and to learn or practice controlling intelligent robotic prostheses. The Virtual Therapy Arm was developed at the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics in Oberpfaffenhofen.

DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

VITA: Virtual Therapy Arm

VITA is used for people with amputations or restricted use of the upper limbs. With the Virtual Therapy Arm, patients can immerse themselves in a virtual world in which they experience full mobility of their hands and arms again. This is a direct, unique experience for those concerned. It specifically helps alleviate phantom limb pain. However, VITA can also be a part of rehabilitation from the start.

It can be several weeks or even months until an individually adapted prosthesis is available. This is often a difficult time for those affected, as they cannot lead their lives how they used to and also cannot improve their situation in the meantime. With the virtual therapy arm, they can actively deal with the waiting period and adapt themselves to a prosthetic.

Movement of the virtual arm is controlled by muscular tension, which the user activates by thought or the remaining movement capability in his or her upper limbs. The DLR experts have integrated these electromyographic measurements (EMGs) into a mobile system. Following around three years of development time, the project team is now demonstrating the functional capabilities of the virtual therapy arm at MT-CONNECT..

The set-up of VITA consists of commercially available components including VR glasses, an arm sleeve with EMG sensors, a joystick and two movement sensors to be installed in the room. The software is compatible with all common operating systems, so it can be used immediately with a suitably powerful computer. Therapy with VITA can be carried out in any room – a clinic, a surgery, or at home. Hence, in future the entire rehabilitation process in terms of prosthetics will be monitored and simplified - from the waiting time to the adaptation to a prosthetic.

Media representatives and trade visitors can experience DLR's innovations in medical robotics live at MT-CONNECT , from June 21- 22 June, in Hall 10.0, Booth 206, at the Trade Show Centre in Nuremberg.

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Bernadette Jung

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Münchener Straße 20, 82234 Weßling
Tel: +49 8153 28-2251

Dr. Ing. Roland Unterhinninghofen

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics
Linder Höhe, 51147 Köln

Claudio Castellini

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne