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Sep 18, 2006

Learning to perform a new movement with robotic assistance

Learning to perform a new movement with robotic assistance: comparison of haptic guidance and visual demonstration

By J Liu, SC Cramer and DJ Reinkensmeyer

Background: Mechanical guidance with a robotic device is a candidate technique for teaching people desired movement patterns during motor rehabilitation, surgery, and sports training, but it is unclear how effective this approach is as compared to visual demonstration alone. Further, little is known about motor learning and retention involved with either robot-mediated mechanical guidance or visual demonstration alone. Methods: Healthy subjects (n = 20) attempted to reproduce a novel three-dimensional path after practicing it with mechanical guidance from a robot. Subjects viewed their arm as the robot guided it, so this "haptic guidance" training condition provided both somatosensory and visual input. Learning was compared to reproducing the movement following only visual observation of the robot moving along the path, with the hand in the lap (the "visual demonstration" training condition). Retention was assessed periodically by instructing the subjects to reproduce the path without robotic demonstration. Results: Subjects improved in ability to reproduce the path following practice in the haptic guidance or visual demonstration training conditions, as evidenced by a 30–40% decrease in spatial error across 126 movement attempts in each condition. Performance gains were not significantly different between the two techniques, but there was a nearly significant trend for the visual demonstration condition to be better than the haptic guidance condition (p = 0.09). The 95% confidence interval of the mean difference between the techniques was at most 25% of the absolute error in the last cycle. When asked to reproduce the path repeatedly following either training condition, the subjects' performance degraded significantly over the course of a few trials. The tracing errors were not random, but instead were consistent with a systematic evolution toward another path, as if being drawn to an "attractor path". Conclusion: These results indicate that both forms of robotic demonstration can improve short-term performance of a novel desired path. The availability of both haptic and visual input during the haptic guidance condition did not significantly improve performance compared to visual input alone in the visual demonstration condition. Further, the motor system is inclined to repeat its previous mistakes following just a few movements without robotic demonstration, but these systematic errors can be reduced with periodic training.

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