Rahman receives $1.49M grant to develop robotic assistive arm to help those with disabilities

Mohammad Rahman

Mohammad “Habib” Rahman, associate professor, mechanical and biomechanical engineering, at UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science, was awarded a three-year grant of $1.49 million in September from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation for research on assistive technology to promote independence and community living.

Rahman is an expert in bio-robotics, including human-assist robots, service robots, mobile robots, medical robots, rehabilitation robotics, and exoskeleton robots for rehabilitation and motion assistance.

In this project, he is developing the prototype of a multifunctional robotic assistive arm that could be mounted on a wheelchair or other base. Equipped with a set of grippers, the arm would allow the person to feed himself or herself, open doors, pick up an object and perform other activities that are essential to independence.

New, assistive technologies such as these—which include such advanced human-computer interfaces that let humans interact with computers in novel ways—can improve the quality of life and reduces a person’s dependence on caregivers, Rahman says.

The project builds on Rahman’s participation in the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Customer Discovery Program and his past research on rehabilitation robotics and control, which uses technology to communicate with muscles when the brain cannot.

The NSF program, Rahman says, helped him with the commercialization aspect of this project– including understanding the most pressing needs of people with upper/lower extremity dysfunctions and refining his invention to help meet them.

Rahman has already designed two wearable upper-extremity exoskeleton robots for rehabilitation and a powered glove for hand and finger rehabilitation. These devices—which unlike other physical therapy devices incorporate sensors, motors and artificial intelligence—are designed to help patients regain much of their former abilities.

Should they become affordable and portable, Rahman believes, more patients would adhere to their physical therapy regimens and experience more successful recoveries.