The CR2-Haptic is Khor’s first invention and it helps people with compromised motor skills to recover through physical practice.
Malaysia’s own Tony Stark is revolutionising stroke rehabilitation
By Reenassri Sekaran
Do you know that 52,000 people in Malaysia are at risk of stroke every year? According to global statistics, one out six people suffer from a stroke on a daily basis. And although the support for stroke patients is prevalent, in 2016, it was reported that there are fewer than half of the recommended number of rehabilitation physicians in Malaysia. One young man decided to change all that thanks to his love of robotics. Khor Kang Xiang, Chief Executive Officer of TechCare Innovation Sdn Bhd tells us his tale on how he went from winning robotic competitions to designing rehabilitation devices that assists stroke patients in their healing process. “It all started in university – in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), we have a team known as Robocon and UTM is actually one of the top teams that represents Malaysia during competitions. I’m a mechatronics student so I joined the mechatronics team in Robocon – it was not easy. I once fell asleep fixing a screw and the next morning, I woke up in the exact same position and guess what? I continued fixing the screw! After a year, we represented Malaysia and even went to Egypt winning best design award.” But this university student was not satisfied with the numerous awards coming his way. He wondered was there more to winning awards and kept this question with him for more than two years, constantly seeking the answer.
The idea for TechCare can be traced back to the day Khor paid a visit to the National Stroke Association of Malaysia (NASAM) facility in Johor during his student days. There, he met stroke patients from all walks of life and witnessed their struggles first hand. “There was a boy there who was around my age and he was facing difficulty walking and that really struck me hard.” Describing the day as a ‘wake up call,’ he started to think, “Back in the Robocon days, we would feel intimidated by players from countries overseas. However we were winning multiple awards – it shows Malaysia is able to compete. It doesn’t mean you need to only be in Silicon Valley to achieve great things. I started thinking what I could do for these patients.” In 2013, he won Crest Research Assistant Scholarship Award. “I remember I was feeling very unfulfilled during my internship. I couldn’t see myself doing the same thing every day. My lecturer/mentor told me medical is a tough field in Malaysia. But I convinced him – after all UTM is one of the top universities and if we don’t do this, who else would step to the plate? He also told me it will take me 10 years but I told him as long as we start somewhere, that’s good enough. He told me he would join me on my idea. Till today, I’m very grateful to Dr Yeong Che Fai who is practically family.” They named the company ‘TechCare’ meaning technology that cares through innovation.
Meet CR-2 Haptic
TechCare managed to introduce a series of robotics systems called the Compact Rehabilitation Robot (CR2) in 2014. Their core product, the CR2-Haptic, can be used to train wrist movements in a virtual reality environment. The main objective of this device is to improve or maintain the fitness of wrist and forearm. The robot can provide different training exercise to train for the movement range, strength and coordination by moving the hand with the biofeedback provided By enabling patients to train themselves while playing games, CR2-Haptic helps make the rehabilitation process enjoyable. This motivates patients to train more frequently, which is crucial for speedy recovery, says Khor.
Balance tends to drop as we grow older, other diseases such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and impairment due to stroke can cause an effect on one or both of the balancing mechanism components which lead to high fall risk. “CREST funded us on this. FIBOD took roughly six months to a year to come up with the prototype. We worked closely with NASAM on this invention. We also won awards and much recognition with the FIBOD.” FIBOD or Fitness Balance Board is a smart fitness balance board that allows users to train and access their balance skill with virtual reality games and objective assessment program. The Fibod is not limited to stroke patients; the programmed interactive games that come with it can also be used by the able-bodied to work their core movements and release tension. (We got to play with it and it was really fun. Honestly it feels like the Nintendo Wii but for health purposes.)
Digitalising rehabilitation solutions
Truly Malaysia’s Tony Stark. What does Khor have in store for TechCare? “We want to be the lead in Southeast Asia. We are also currently working on building a cloud platform which can integrate all these devices – the idea is to digitalise rehabilitation solutions. We are keen on starting TechCare academy next month to help out students who have dreams and ideas of their own.” We are truly impressed with this 30-year old and are looking forward to more innovations from TechCare. — The Health