SNF Nostos



Robotics in Health

Thursday June 23, 15:20, Alternative Stage GNO

Robert Riener, Full Professor for Sensory-Motor Systems in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich


Robotic devices are increasingly integrated into people's daily lives. Their usefulness is not limited to scientific and laboratory studies but extends to all aspects of the human experience, touching upon the health sector too, in various ways.

How can the use of robotic devices help in the rehabilitation of physical disabilities? On June 23, at the alternative stage of the Greek National Opera, Robert Riener spoke about the contributions of robotic systems in the field of health, while wearing a robotic device.

After posing the question of what a robot is, Riener discussed the concept through a multifaceted approach, presenting examples from classic films. Moving on to a more modern definition, he defined a robot as “a machine that behaves like humans and can therefore replace many of their functions, helping them.”

This help became evident during the pandemic, when robotic devices were used for decontamination, the transport of objects, and remote handling, he said. He also explained that robots can support the needs of different ages, from providing support to older people to tackling problems such as apnea in children. As an example, he mentioned the story of a 10-year-old boy who managed to improve the quality of his sleep by using a robotic bed.

Demonstrating the robotic mechanism he was wearing, Prof. Riener highlighted the role of physical activity in the rehabilitation of physical disabilities and injuries. The mechanism, he explained, provided him with support to allow him to move and stand up more easily. In this way, robots can help a patient's body 'relearn' to move.

Concluding his speech, Prof. Riener presented the work of the Cybathlon, an international competition launched at the initiative of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, where people with physical disabilities compete in activities related to daily life.