The robot named Emma, short for Expert Manipulative Massage Automation, has already treated 50 patients in trials including professional athletes for conditions ranging from tennis elbows, stiff neck and shoulders, to lower back pain.
Emma is a robotic arm that comes with a 3D stereoscopic camera and a custom made 3D-printed massage tip. It uses sensors and diagnostic functions to measure the response of a patient and the stiffness of a particular muscle or tendon. The detailed diagnostics are analysed and uploaded to the cloud so the patient's recovery can be closely monitored over time.
Emma is created by a graduate of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) whose start-up company is incubated by the university.
Emma is currently undergoing user trials at Kin Teck Tong, a modern medical institution with a chain of clinics that offer sports injury rehabilitation and pain management through the integration of advanced sports science and traditional Chinese medicine.
NTU graduate Albert Zhang, the creator of Emma who founded the startup AiTreat to develop and eventually market this innovation, said he wanted to solve some of the challenges faced by sports therapy and pain management clinics, such as a shortage of trained therapists and a need to deliver high quality therapy consistently.
"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," said Mr Zhang, who graduated in 2010 from NTU's Double Degree programme in Biomedical Sciences and Chinese Medicine.
"This will be one of the first robots out in the market specifically for use by sports therapists and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physicians. 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."