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Idaho Researchers Could Give Stroke Survivors a Second Chance at Mobility

July 13, 2022

This article appeared on Boise State Public Radio on July 12, 2022.

Stroke survivors may soon have new ways to regain movement lost from nerve damage.

The University of Idaho’s Assistive Robotics Lab developed Blue Sabino, a robot able to identify muscles impaired by a stroke. It uses four detection points in the upper arm where nerve damage often occurs.

“We're focused a lot on assessing people, measuring what their impairment is exactly,” says U of I doctoral student Chris Bitikofer. His work focused on redesigning the existing technology to make it more accurate and practical for patients.

“It gives us a sense of maybe what tasks they might be able to perform and what they might not be able to,” he says.

The two-arm robotic exoskeleton can also help compensate for lost mobility and help patients perform simple tasks, like raising an arm. Strokes often hinder fine motor skills; those effects are often permanent and require constant rehabilitation.

The lab’s eventual goal is to increase the number of detection points to 15, opening the potential for near-complete mobility restoration in the arms.

“We want to really look at full reach and grasp movements on the whole arm all the way from the shoulder down to the wrist and the hand,” says Joel Perry, a mechanical engineering professor at the university.

Both Perry and Bitikofer spoke with Boise State Public Radio News on Idaho Matters.

The lab received money from the National Science Foundation to continue developing the robot, and the researchers say that they are also working with the National Institutes of Health.

This technology isn’t available to the public yet, though the researchers eventually want to bring their work to hospitals. Future devices may borrow from this technology to create what Perry calls “more affordable, low cost, new rehab devices that can make a difference in the world.”

“So watching them progress is really rewarding,” Perry says. “I hope the most rewarding part is still yet to come.”

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The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at


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