Scott Banks, a University of Florida engineer has designed a robot to take X-ray video of sufferers of orthopaedic injuries as they walk, climb stairs, or pursue other normal activities.
“Our goal is come up with a way to observe and measure how joints are moving when people are actually using them,” Banks said. “We think this will be tremendously powerful, not only for research but also in the clinical setting as well.”
Current technologies –static X-rays, MRI and CT scans– can be effective, but they do not work well with injuries that manifest themselves when a joint is in motion.
Banks hopes his system – that uses two robots: one robot to shoot the X-ray video and another to hold the image sensor — will lead to a radical improvement.
The current working prototype, which has a one-metre mechanical arm, is a commercial product normally used in robotically assisted surgeries and silicon chip manufacturing that have been re-engineered. The robot can shadow a person’s knee, shoulder or other joint with its hand as he or she moves.
In its completed form, the hand will hold lightweight equipment capable of shooting X-rays, while another robot will hold the sensor that captures images of the body as moving videos. Although the robots will be attached to a fixed base, there is room for a person to move around normally within their reach. And in the future, said Banks, “we could put these robots on wheels and they could follow you around.”