Before you think of something else, let’s get to know first who Emma is; or in this case, what it is. EMMA is the acronym for Expert Manipulative Massage Automation. Thus, Emma is a robot designed and developed to perform physical therapy for athletes and acupoint therapy* which is a method of massage in Chinese medicine utilised to help patients for the relief of muscle strain and recovery from injuries.
Emma was released for public demo on 18 July 2016 at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. The Singaporean start-up company, AiTreat, took the initiative of designing and building this state-of-the-art medical innovation.
To guide this robot in assuring there is quality and progression in its therapeutic task, Emma has sensors and diagnostic functions that will enable itself to detect and monitor the recovery process of the patient and the exact point where the muscle or tendon is stiff and strained. Given its user-friendly design and interface, there are built-in metrics and guidelines for different sports related injuries and musculoskeletal conditions. The diagnostic details it collates are stored via cloud technology in which each patient’s progress can be read, monitored, and analysed. AiTreat tapped Microsoft’s technology to ensure a robust and secure cloud intelligence system.
Emma is made up of a robotic arm with 6 axis, which is capable of doing smooth and extremely flexible axial movements. It also has a rotating 3D-printed massage end and a 3D-stereoscopic camera for imaging. Its hi-tech pressure sensors has a built-in safety mechanism that will make sure the patient undergoes a safe and comfortable session.
The primary maker of Emma, Albert Zhang – who happens to be an alumnus of NTU Singapore – has this to say about his invention…
We have designed Emma as a clinically-precise tool that can automatically carry out treatment for patients as prescribed by a physiotherapist or Chinese physician.
Albert Zhang is also the founder of AiTreat and a licensed TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) physician in Singapore.
As of the present, Emma has successfully provided treatments on patients with stiff neck, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, back pain, and muscle strains. NTU is known in Singapore to be working with national athletes with regards to sports therapies, so it is just appropriate that the university gets the first usage of Mr. Zhang’s newly invented technology. “What we have demonstrated is the possibility of having a tireless clinical massage therapist that always delivers high quality treatment,” he further adds.
With all the laudable elements and promising benefits Emma has to offer to the medical field of physical therapy, does this goes to predict a near future when human therapists will be replaced by machines? Let’s read the answer from Emma’s inventor himself…
This is probably the first such robot in the world developed specifically for use by traditional Chinese medicine physicians and sports therapists. Our aim is not to replace the therapists who are skilled in sports massage and acupoint therapy, but to improve productivity by enabling one therapist to treat multiple patients with the help of our robots.
* Acupoint therapy is a massage technique practised by therapists using the same pressure points of acupuncture but without the aid of needles.
Asian Scientist Newsroom. (27 July 2016) “Attention, Athletes: Physiotherapy Robot Helps Ease The Aches.” Asian Scientist. Retrieved from www.asianscientist.com
Rosado, F. (2 September 2007) “What is Acupoint Therapy?” ReliaWire. Retrieved from reliawire.com
Alumni Affairs Office. (July 2016) “Emma the robot therapist hits the spot with athletes.” Nanyang Technological University. Retrieved from enewsletter.ntu.edu.sg