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The Engineering Rehabilitation Robot



"We improve the ability to move by amplifying the errors," the engineer says. This sounds strange. But if a stroke patient, for example, wants to grab something but not do it exactly, the rehabilitation robot reinforces this inaccuracy by creating a little resistance. In this way, the patient must work harder. The learning algorithm developed by Marchal-Crespo independently determines which patient complicates the task and which one makes it easier.

During training, the robot decides whether to help or resist. Photo: Adrian Moser

In addition to Armin, there is also a horizontal driving machine at Bern's open plan office. Marchal-Crespo can then examine a patient even during training in a magnetic resonance tomograph. Lying, he either actively or passively moves his legs with a knee-jack robot. The researcher wants to find out which areas of the brain are stimulated by such specific exercises and how the neurons reconnect after a stroke. She is currently trying to simulate the feeling of walking as accurately as possible, so that, for example, the pressure on the soles is felt.

Originally, she came from the suburbs to Barcelona, ​​she laughs. She was very lucky to receive a scholarship for the United States at that time. Because her parents were not academics and her father made money as a taxi driver. Her mother has always supported her and her two sisters in every way, she adds. One is now a mechanical engineer in Australia, the other a chemist in Barcelona.

Since Marchal-Crespos also comes from the capital of Catalonia, he speaks with three children aged three to seven Catalan while she speaks Spanish with them, Everyday life with family and work is a challenge, but it is also exciting and a privilege , she thinks. Her husband works as an engineer at ABB in Zurich. When the family lives there, she commutes to Bern four days a week. "If possible, we do all outdoor activities together on the weekend and either go hiking or cycling."

Virtual Reality Therapy

Marchal-Crespo is also particularly fascinated by the unnecessary opportunities in the virtual world. So one of her doctoral students now produces a VR glasses. If you open it, you're in a virtual room where suddenly an apple, then a pear or another apple hangs in the air. With a control unit you now have to control a ball exactly for these fruits and at the same time count the fruits.


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