The next time you visit a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic for a stiff back, don’t be surprised if Emma the robot is your masseuse.
Made in NTU, the robot has the potential to address manpower shortage and lower treatment costs
Short for Expert Manipulative Massage Automation, Emma is developed by AiTreat, a start-up incubated by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore).
Emma has a highly articulated arm with soft massage tips that mimic the human palm and thumb that replicate the traditional acupoint massage known as “tuina”.
Specialising in back and knee massages, Emma started work today at NovaHealth TCM clinic, working hand-in-hand with her human colleagues, a physician and a massage therapist.
The official launch of Emma and the NovaHealth clinic today was attended by fellow entrepreneurs and industry leaders, including Mr Inderjit Singh, Chairman of NTUitive, NTU’s innovation and enterprise arm, and a member of NTU Board of Trustees.
Founder of AiTreat and NovaHealth, Mr Albert Zhang, who led the development of Emma, said Emma will address the manpower shortage and issues of consistency of quality in treatments faced in the healthcare industry.
Using Emma will open up low-cost treatment alternatives in countries where healthcare costs are high, especially when compounded by an aging population with a growing demand for chronic pain management treatment.
“Emma is designed to deliver a clinically precise massage according to the prescription of a qualified TCM physician or physiotherapist, without the fatigue faced by a human therapist,” said Mr Zhang, an alumnus of NTU’s Double Degree programme in Biomedical Sciences and Chinese Medicine.
“By using Emma to do the labour-intensive massages, we can now offer a longer therapy session for patients while reducing the cost of treatment. The human therapist is then free to focus on other areas such as the neck and limb joints which Emma can’t massage at the moment.”
For instance, a conventional treatment package for lower back pain, consisting of a consultation, acupuncture and a 20-minute massage, would typically range from $60 to $150.
At NovaHealth, a patient could get the same consultation, acupuncture but with a 40 minute massage done by Emma and human therapist, all for $68.
Mr Zhang adds that the manpower requirements to run a clinic has been significantly reduced from five people to just three, as Emma can do the job of two masseurs.
Emma is placed in a customised room which has two massage beds. Located in between both beds, Emma can massage one patient while the physician does other treatments like acupuncture or cupping for the second patient, before switching over.
This arrangement ensures Emma is always working on a patient, maximising the productivity of the clinic.
How Emma works
In its third generation, this commercial version of Emma is 35 per cent more compact than the first prototype unveiled last year.
It also has soft massage tips made from silicon which can be warmed up for better comfort.
Emma also has advanced sensors and diagnostic functions which can measure the exact stiffness of a particular muscle or tendon.
The data collected from each patient is then sent to a server in a cloud, where an Artificial Intelligence (AI) will compute the exact pressure to be delivered during the massage procedure.
The AI can also track and analyse the progress of the patient, generating a performance report that will allow a physician to measure a patient’s recovery using precise empirical data.
This propriety cloud intelligence is supported by Microsoft, after Mr Zhang and his teammates won the Microsoft Developer Day Start-up Challenge last year.
Once it is shown that Emma can improve the productivity and effectiveness of TCM treatments, Mr Zhang hopes it can be a business model for other clinics to follow in future.
Incubated at NTUitive, AiTreat now has a valuation of $10 million, after completing its seed round funding, supported by Venture Capitalists from Singapore, China and the United States, including Brain Robotics Capital LP from Boston.
AiTreat is supported by the StartupSG-Tech grant, which funds up to $500,000, as well as SPRING Singapore’s ACE start-up grant and the Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) grant.
The development of Emma is also on the TAG.PASS accelerator programme by SGInnovate, which will see Mr Zhang tie up with overseas teams to target multiple markets such as in US and China.
Chief Executive Officer of NTU Innovation and NTUitive Dr Lim Jui said tapping on disruptive technologies such as robotics and AI to improve everyday life is what Singapore needs to keep its innovative edge.
“To remain competitive in the global arena, start-ups will need to tap on emerging technologies in order to create a unique product that can tackle current challenges, similar to what AiTreat has done,” Dr Lim explained.
“We are proud to have guided Mr Albert Zhang in his vision to bring affordable healthcare solutions to the market for Singapore, which can alleviate some of the chronic pain problems which our elderly faces.”
Mr Inderjit Singh said, “There is great potential for Emma to be of service to society, especially as the population ages. The massage techniques of experienced and renowned TCM physicians can be reproduced in Emma, giving the public easier access to quality treatment. I look forward to future studies which could improve the efficacy of such massages, through the use of herbal ointments containing modern ingredients that improve wear and tear, such as glucosamine.
Running in parallel to Emma’s work schedule is a research project to measure and benchmark Emma’s efficacy, comparing it to those of a professional TCM massage therapist.
The Latest on: Robot masseuse
- Thursday's best deals: Powerbeats Pro, Roborock S4 robot vacuum, USB-C chargers, and moreon January 12, 2020 at 5:38 am
The Roborock S4 Robot Vacuum was released just a few months ago ... Now at its lowest price ever, this flexible handheld massage roller helps to relieve soreness and assist with muscle recovery after ...
- The 5 Most Absurd, Interesting, and Just Plain Weird Things I Saw This Week at CES 2020on January 10, 2020 at 1:29 am
There were massage chairs everywhere, including the latest from companies ... Enter the Charmin RollBot, a robot that has one purpose--to deliver you a new roll in your moment of need. Truthfully, you ...
- Japan loves robots, but getting them to do human work isn’t easyon January 9, 2020 at 11:55 am
A hotel staffed by androids in southern Japan ended up laying off some of its robots after customers complained that they were not as good at hospitality as people. [Most read] Facebook tips lead ...
- Robot ping pong, giant arcade games, ball pits entertain at CESon January 7, 2020 at 1:59 pm
The robot analyzes players’ precision ... This dynamic version allows pieces to rotate as if suspended in thin air. Esqapes VR massage Massage chairs at CES are a far cry from the Sharper Image ...
- CES 2020 Exhibitor Profiles: Razer to zGlueon January 3, 2020 at 9:33 am
Roybi Robot is an AI-powered educational toy robot for children ages 3-7 in language learning ... U.S. JACLEAN, INC. is the parent company and sole distributor of Daiwa Massage chairs. For 37 years, U ...
- Robot Operating Systems Market Insights and Trends 2018, Forecast to 2026on January 1, 2020 at 4:00 pm
package management and massage passing between processes. Growing investment in research and development activities is anticipated to drive the global robot operating system market. Growing need ...
- Robot masseuse hits the spot in Singaporeon December 12, 2019 at 3:15 pm
Most Popular Robot masseuse hits the spot in Singapore Posted A robot massage therapist known as 'Emma' is giving doctors in Singapore a helping hand to relieve their patients muscle strain and ...
- Wheeme Massage Robot: Therapeutic Toy Caron November 30, 2019 at 4:00 pm
The company is developing WheeMe, a quirky little massage robot that is essentially a toy car. The WheeMe has “fingerettes” – i.e. toothed wheels – that will “massage” you as the robot ...
- Humans react poorly to trash talk, even if it's coming from a cute robot that's been programmed to insult them, researchers foundon November 27, 2019 at 7:58 am
Pepper is intended to be a companion robot who works at airports ... new report shows » READ NOW: Massage chairs, hot tubs, and electric mountain bikes: The 14 most expensive items that appeared ...
- Robots threat to our jobs, social interactionon November 26, 2019 at 8:44 pm
Massage beds and seats ... The combination of AI and machine learning produces robots. Robots will, seemingly, sit in banks as cashiers. Robots will soon run our SGR as drivers and mechanics.
via Google News and Bing News