Rehabilitation robots are increasingly being viewed as an appropriate assistive technology interface for persons with disabilities. The Desktop vocational Assistant Robot (DeVAR™) system is a voice-controlled robotic workstation designed to enable persons with severe mobility impairments to function independently in a work environment. This study examined the overall efficacy of the DeVAR™ system, the level of expertise required for therapist and support personnel, routine maintenance requirements, and the readiness of the device for a multicenter evaluation.

Two precommercial DeVAR™ workstations were installed at selected sites. The pilot study spanned 8 months in which staff members and four subjects with high-level quadriplegia evaluated the systems extensively. Responses were generally favorable regarding ease of use and overall training process. Subjects recommended modifications, including incorporation of a noise cancellation microphone, more effective use of workstation space, and addition of vocational tasks. All respondents thought that if the recommended changes were implemented, DeVAR™ would have potential as a vocational assistant.

The small number of subjects was due to the limited subject pool available for the study. On the basis of pilot results, the Veterans Administration Rehabilitation Research and Development Service, Baltimore, Maryland, is conducting a national multicenter evaluation to determine the overall utility and commercial readiness of the DeVAR™ system.

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