Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 46, Issue 7, pp 1047–1065 | Cite as

A Semi-passive Planar Manipulandum for Upper-Extremity Rehabilitation

  • Chih-Kang Chang
  • Edward P. Washabaugh
  • Andrew Gwozdziowski
  • C. David Remy
  • Chandramouli KrishnanEmail author


Robotic rehabilitation is a promising approach to treat individuals with neurological or orthopedic disorders. However, despite significant advancements in the field of rehabilitation robotics, this technology has found limited traction in clinical practice. A key reason for this issue is that most robots are expensive, bulky, and not scalable for in-home rehabilitation. Here, we introduce a semi-passive rehabilitation robot (SepaRRo) that uses controllable passive actuators (i.e., brakes) to provide controllable resistances at the end-effector over a large workspace in a manner that is cost-effective and safe for in-home use. We also validated the device through theoretical analyses, hardware experiments, and human subject experiments. We found that by including kinematic redundancies in the robot’s linkages, the device was able to provide controllable resistances to purely resist the movement of the end-effector, or to gently steer (i.e., perturb) its motion away from the intended path. When testing these capabilities on human subjects, we found that many of the upper-extremity muscles could be selectively targeted based on the forcefield prescribed to the user. These results indicate that SepaRRo could serve as a low-cost therapeutic tool for upper-extremity rehabilitation; however, further testing is required to evaluate its therapeutic benefits in patient population.


Kinematics Design Simulation Planar Two-dimensional Reaching Feedback 



Semi-passive rehabilitation robot


Graphical user interface


Non-negative least squares


Pulse width modulation




Maximum voluntary contraction


Analysis of variance


Pectoralis major (clavicular)


Pectoralis major (sternal)


Latissimus dorsi




Biceps brachii




Triceps brachii


Wrist flexors


Wrist extensors



Research reported in this publication was supported by (1) National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) of the National Institutes of Health (Grant# R01-EB019834), (2) National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. DGE #1256260, and (3) the University of Michigan Office of Research (UMOR) MCubed 2.0 program. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies. A special thanks to Shannon Leon and Justin Lee for the work they did in building and programming the robot.

Conflict of interest

No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10439_2018_2020_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (231 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 232 kb)


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neuromuscular and Rehabilitation Robotics Laboratory (NeuRRo Lab), Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.RAM Lab, Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Michigan Robotics, College of EngineeringUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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