Clinically useful and efficient assessment of balance during standing and walking is especially challenging in patients with neurological disorders. However, rehabilitation robots could facilitate assessment procedures and improve their clinical value. We present a short overview of balance assessment in clinical practice and in posturography. Based on this overview, we evaluate the potential use of robotic tools for such assessment. The novelty and assumed main benefits of using robots for assessment are their ability to assess 'severely affected' patients by providing assistance-as-needed, as well as to provide consistent perturbations during standing and walking while measuring the patient's reactions. We provide a classification of robotic devices on three aspects relevant to their potential application for balance assessment: 1) how the device interacts with the body, 2) in what sense the device is mobile, and 3) on what surface the person stands or walks when using the device. As examples, nine types of robotic devices are described, classified and evaluated for their suitability for balance assessment. Two example cases of robotic assessments based on perturbations during walking are presented. We conclude that robotic devices are promising and can become useful and relevant tools for assessment of balance in patients with neurological disorders, both in research and in clinical use. Robotic assessment holds the promise to provide increasingly detailed assessment that allows to individually tailor rehabilitation training, which may eventually improve training effectiveness.
- Balance performance
- Rehabilitation robots