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THE SINGAPORE MAGAZINE OF RESEARCH,
TECHNOLOGY AND EDUCATION
About Innovation   |   Editorial Matters
IN BRIEF:
EMMA, The Robot Therapist
EMMA or Expert Manipulative Massage Automation, a robot sports massage therapist programed to administer precise treatments as prescribed by a physiotherapist or a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician, may revolutionize the way sports injuries are treated.

"This is probably the first such robot in the world developed specifically for use by TCM physicians and sports therapists," said EMMA's inventor Mr Albert Zhang, Chief Executive Officer of AiTREAT and a Singapore Registered TCM Physician. "Our aim is not to replace the therapists who are skilled in sports massage and acupoint therapy, but to improve productivity by enabling one therapist to treat multiple patients with the help of our robots."

EMMA has a single, 6-axis robotic arm and a 3D-printed fully rotatable massage tip customized to sense a patient's muscle or tendon stiffness and render treatment in accordance to that. Together with Artificial Intelligence (AI), a 3D-stereoscopic camera and a user-friendly interphase, EMMA is able to carry out highlyarticulated movements.

"EMMA can perform the most tedious, repetitive and time consuming part of a therapist's job, so the therapist can work on 1-more basis rather than a 1-1 basis," said Mr Zhang. This, he added, reduces the therapists' workload while increasing their job satisfaction and salary due to increased productivity.

Detailed diagnostic data of individual patients is stored onto the cloud. This serves as an individual performance report for patients, giving them the ability to track and monitor their progress.

"[Data stored in the] cloud allows a patient to receive consistent and customized treatments assigned by their own physician. [For example], someone who stays in the US can visit a famous TCM physician in another part of the world and continue receiving treatment even after they are back in the US at any facility which holds EMMA," said Mr Zhang. "The cloud data also contributes to a better AI which will benefit other patients in the long run," he added.

Marketed under AiTREAT, a start-up company founded by Mr Zhang, this therapist robot has been on trial at Kin Teck Tong's Sports Science and Chinese Medicine Hall at Kallang Wave Mall in Singapore. Over 50 patients with stiff neck and shoulders, muscle pulls and tennis elbows have been treated so far. EMMA has received funding from SPRING Singapore, a Microsoft Startup Competition, and Technopreneur Action Group, Platform Accelerated Startups (TAG.PASS) run by Infocomm Investments. Currently, AiTREAT is in the midst of finalizing a deal with a potential investor. Going forward, Mr Zhang and his team plan on two different models for EMMA: a highly specialized version with physiotherapy and rehabilitation functions which a physiotherapist, doctor or nurse can use in a hospital or clinic, and another model that focuses on TCM therapy rendering sports injury treatment. The latter model, Mr Zhang hopes, would benefit TCM physicians, coaches, and athletes.

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INNOVATION magazine is a joint publication of Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore and World Scientific Publishing Co Pte Ltd