Therapy Robotics

The grand challenge in Therapy Robotics is to design the user experience so that the rehabilitation exercise becomes compelling, effective and sustainable. The CARIS Lab is working on several fronts in the areas of upper and lower limb rehabilitation for persons who are hemiparetic, for example as a result of cerebral palsy or a stroke. In one project (FEATHERS), we are combining social media, on-line games and orthoses with actuators to provide a motivating experience for young and older persons with hemiplegia. In another, we are exploring the use of physiological signal sensing to modify the difficulty of a physically challenging motor learning task in real-time, keeping the user engaged but not frustrated. In a third project, we are using an in-lab designed assistive Sit-to-stand testbed to study feedback methods for retraining standing in adults with lower limb weakness and/or hemiplegia.

FEATHERS: Functional Engagement in Assisted Therapy Through Exercise Robotics

We have created the Robotics for Rehabilitation, Exercise and Assessment in Collaborative Healthcare (RREACH) Lab to focus specifically on biomedical engineering projects involving upper limb therapy for persons with neurological impairment. The lab has robotics and motion capture devices to investigate different ways of designing exercise regimens to create more engaging, context-relevant, and effective experiences for persons undergoing therapy. The RREACH Lab currently is home to the FEATHERS Project.

Currently, we are looking at using immersive virtual reality technologies to design engaging exercise regimens, as well as explore new feedback modalities such as visual error augmentation of upper limb symmetry during bimanual reaching. For more information on the study, please see our Current Open Studies.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Mike Van der Loos, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, UBC


Leia Shum
Bulmaro Valdes Benavides


Dr. Nicola Hodges, Professor, School of Kinesiology, UBC
Dr. Tal Jarus, Professor, Department of Occupational Science and Occupation Therapy, UBC
Dr. Elizabeth Croft, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, UBC

SleepSmart: Mattress Sensor Array for Characterization of Biosignals and Movement Events

Sleep disorders affect a large percentage of the population; however, most disorders can only be diagnosed through the use of polysomnography. In this overnight sleep study, patients are asked to sleep in a clinical lab attached to many different machines. In addition, patients might be on a waiting list for up to a year before an available lab time comes up. Current techniques are expensive, uncomfortable, and resource-consuming. In an effort to meet the need for an affordable, at-home sleep monitoring system, SleepSmart was developed. SleepSmart is a mattress sensor topper that leverages arrays of accelerometers and thermistors to acquire dynamic data profiles and temperature distribution. Using the data from the sensors, various information such as sleeping postures, biosignals, movement events can be predicted with machine learning methods. The frequency and magnitude of posture changes can be used to determine sleep quality by calculating the restlessness index. These sensors are all incorporated into a mattress topper which would replace a fitted mattress sheet, allowing for unobtrusive monitoring.

A prototype for SleepSmart has been fabricated, and software implementations are currently being implemented to allow for the characterization of biosignals (heart rate and respiratory rate) as well as improve on the existing temperature sensors, and the classification of movement events. The project is being funded by Kids Brain Health Network, a trans-Canada initiative dedicated to studying children’s brain development, and studies are currently underway in collaboration with the BC Children’s Hospital. The final product will be used to assist in the diagnosis of sleep disorders of children with neurodevelopmental disorders. In addition, SleepSmart will allow clinicians to gather a repository of physiological data that can be used in future analysis to further the understanding of sleep in the pediatric population.

If you’re interested in participating, more details can be found here.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Mike Van der Loos, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, UBC


Yi Jui Lee (Alex)

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Tel: 604.822.6413
Department of Mechanical Engineering, UBC,
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Tel: 604.822.3147
Fax: 604.822.2403
See contact page for addresses.

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