Robots With The Right Touch

Robot giving woman a massage.

Oct 18, 2017

Robotics has found another application - massage therapy. Called EMMA for Expert Manipulative Massage Automation, this robot offers precision massage therapy for back and knee injuries. The robot utilizes smart sensors to determine the degree of stiffness in a particular muscle and then applies the exact amount of pressure needed in helping the patient experience relief.

Described as the first therapeutic robot available, EMMA tries to emulate the touch of a real person through soft silicon tips that are heated and shaped to mimic a human thumb and palm. And because the robot doesn't fatigue, the massage is provided with a consistent amount of strength and accuracy.

Instead of replacing treatments performed by humans, the robot's inventors feel it can be used in tandem with a masseuse to help generate quicker relief of multiple pain points. Presently, this third-generation robot (the first two were never released to the public) is in use at a health clinic that rents the robot for about $2,200 per month. The clinic feels they'll see a return on this investment by attracting new patients interested in experiencing a robotic massage.

The development and application of robots for medical treatment is clearly not new. Mirroring the process of rolling out EMMA is the well-known da Vinci surgical robot. It was also developed to help ensure greater accuracy and to combat surgeon fatigue. Its initial cost was also justified by many hospitals leveraging the technology to attract new patients.