Contemporary concepts in rehabilitation robotics

Prof. dr. Zlatko Matjačić
University Rehabilitation Institute, Republic of Slovenia Soča


A rehabilitation robot is a device that enables physically disabled people to train, re-learn and perform movement. Neurorobotics has a special place in rehabilitation robotics, the goal of which is to increase the intensity of therapy compared to conventional therapeutic procedures. Wearable exoskeletons, end-effector robots that are in contact only with the walking person’s feet, and cooperative robots are used for training of walking. Special robotic mechanisms enable balance training during standing, standing-up and walking. Rehabilitation robots generally help physically disabled people to perform the desired movement, but they may only provide assistance to the minimum necessary extent to maximize volitional engagement of the users. Rehabilitation robots must exhibit soft haptic interaction in contact with the patient, which means that the robotic mechanism must have a high mechanical compliance. Through feedback and virtual reality environments, modern rehabilitation robots motivate patients to exercise more intensively, which increases the therapeutic effects of exercise. Rehabilitation robots must instill confidence in both patients and therapists in the reliability of their operation, and at the same time they must relieve the therapist of heavy physical burden and enable the measurement and objective evaluation of the effects of training

In the lecture, we will first provide an overview of selected existing rehabilitation robots and exoskeletons that are used in clinical practice for training and assistance of walking. Even though these early rehabilitation robots have played instrumental role in acceptance of this kind of technology in clinical practice they have certain shortcomings, mainly reflected in that they physically over constrain users, thus disabling practicing of propulsion and dynamic balance, which are crucial for efficient and safe bipedal walking.  An overview of the comprehensive set of studies in the field of development and use of rehabilitation robotics for measuring and training the maintenance of dynamic balance during walking, which we carried out at the University Rehabilitation Institute, will be presented next. Further, we will present the evolution of changes in the rehabilitation robot for measuring and training dynamic balance during walking from a complex and expensive haptic device suitable only for research purposes to a simple modular system suitable for use in a clinical environment. Also, we will touch upon contemporary control approaches used in the haptic interaction between the human and the rehabilitation robot, which represent one of the crucial challenges for researchers and developers. We will conclude the lecture with a presentation of autonomous assistive exoskeletons for personalized use, which represent the future of rehabilitation robotics.



  1. HAGEDOORN, Lotte C., ZADRAVEC, Matjaž, OLENŠEK, Andrej, ASSELDONK, Edwin van, MATJAČIĆ, Zlatko. The existence of shared muscle synergies underlying perturbed and unperturbed gait depends on walking speed. Applied sciences. 2022, iss. 4, art. 2135, str. 1-14, ilustr. ISSN 2076-3417. DOI: 10.3390/app12042135.
  2. TOMC, Matej, MATJAČIĆ, Zlatko. Harnessing energy of a Treadmill for Push-Off assistance during walking: in-silico feasibility study. Frontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology. Feb. 2022, vol. 10, art. 832087, str. 1-13, ilustr. ISSN 2296-4185., DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2022.832087.
  3. OLENŠEK, Andrej, ZADRAVEC, Matjaž, BURGER, Helena, MATJAČIĆ, Zlatko. Dynamic balancing responses in unilateral transtibial amputees following outward-directed perturbations during slow treadmill walking differ considerably for amputated and non-amputated side. Journal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation. 2021, vol. 18, no. 123, str. 1-11, ilustr. ISSN 1743-0003.
  4. MATJAČIĆ, Zlatko, ZADRAVEC, Matjaž, OLENŠEK, Andrej. Biomechanics of in-stance balancing responses following outward-directed Perturbation to the Pelvis During Very slow treadmill walking show complex and well-orchestrated reaction of central nervous system. Frontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology. Jul. 2020, vol. 8, art. 884, str. 1-14, ilustr. ISSN 2296-4185., DOI:
  5. ZADRAVEC, Matjaž, OLENŠEK, Andrej, RUDOLF, Marko, BIZOVIČAR, Nataša, GOLJAR KREGAR, Nika, MATJAČIĆ, Zlatko. Assessment of dynamic balancing responses following perturbations during slow walking in relation to clinical outcome measures for high-functioning post-stroke subjects. Journal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation. 2020, vol. 17, no. 1, 16 str., ilustr. ISSN 1743-0003., DOI: 10.1186/s12984-020-00710-5.

Zlatko Matjačić

Zlatko Matjačić obtained PhD in electrical engineering from University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Currently, he is the Head of Research and Development Unit at University Rehabilitation Institute, Republic of Slovenia. He is also a Full Professor of Biomechanics at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. From 1998 to 2001 he was with Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction, Aalborg University, Denmark. His research interests include human motion analysis and synthesis, biomechanics, and rehabilitation robotics. He has leaded several national and international research projects related to rehabilitation of movement. He holds thirteen international patents, two of them were commercialized as standing balance training device “Balance Trainer” and walking balance training device “E-go” ( His group has in the last decade developed several rehabilitation robots for neurorehabilitation of goal-directed upper extremity movement and for neurorehabilitation of walking. The work of his research group is strongly oriented into transfer of basic science into viable practical approaches and devices with the view of deployment in clinical practice. Dr. Matjačić received “The Jožef Stefan Golden Emblem Award” for outstanding contributions made to science in doctoral thesis (2000) as well as prestigious Slovenian national “Puh Award” for excellence in transferring new scientific findings into innovative products (2012).

Bodi na tekočem

Univerza v Ljubljani, Fakulteta za elektrotehniko, Tržaška cesta 25, 1000 Ljubljana

E: T:  01 4768 411