Song presents portable in-home rehabilitation project at NYS’s Aging Innovation Challenge competition

Student-led team named one of five finalists in state-wide competition

Photo of Chen Song of CSE holding the award for his research project.

mRehab team members Sutanuka Bhattacharjya (left) and Chen Song take a selfie with SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson and New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.

by Nicole Capozziello

Published February 19, 2019

Each year, 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke. Upwards of 80% of people survive and return home, with their physical abilities forever altered.

“Winning a highly selective award alongside competitors from Cornell, NYU, and Syracuse shows UB’s strength in the field of smart health and interdisciplinary research. In addition to being a boon for UB’s visibility, the success of mRehab will stimulate more interdisciplinary collaboration at UB, and most importantly, encourage more students to solve practical and high-impact social problems with their learned knowledge.”
Wenyao Xu, associate professor
Department of Computer Science and Engineering

An interdisciplinary team from UB has been working together to meet the needs of these individuals, with Chen Song, a PhD student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, as a driving force in the development of a portable in-home upper limb rehabilitation system.

Called mRehab, the system aims to help people who have suffered a stroke adapt to compromised mobility.

“After devoting four years to this project, I’m so thrilled that our work and efforts have received acknowledgement from industry and academia,” says Song.

Song is credited with leading much of the development of the mRehab platform, which couples 3-D printing technology with the smart technology readily available in smartphones. 3-D printed models of objects commonly found in the home, such as a mug or bowl, are designed to hold a smartphone.

Then, a custom app guides individuals through activities, helping to retrain them in activities of daily living, such as eating and mobility. The hardware in the smartphone records movement data, giving both the user and caregiver the ability to monitor the patient’s progress.

“Chen has the talent of technology and leadership combined,” says Wenyao Xu, Song’s advisor and an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering

“Winning a highly selective award alongside competitors from Cornell, NYU, and Syracuse shows UB’s strength in the field of smart health and interdisciplinary research. In addition to being a boon for UB’s visibility, the success of mRehab will stimulate more interdisciplinary collaboration at UB, and most importantly, encourage more students to solve practical and high-impact social problems with their learned knowledge” added Xu.

“The projects brought by other universities has broadened our view and strengthened our drive to pursue innovative research that can truly improve people’s quality of life,” says Song.

Song and Sutanuka Bhattacharjya, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Rehabilitation Science in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, presented mRehab before colleagues and a panel of judges that included SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson and New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. They also received a $5,000 award.

The NIH R21 funded project is co-led by Xu and Jeanne Langan, assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science in the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

Other project participants are Zhengxiong Li, PhD student, and undergraduates Matthew Stafford and Zhuolin Yang, from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Lora Cavuoto, an associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Heamchand Subryan, programmer/analyst in the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center) in the School of Architecture and Planning.

Earlier this year, Song was recognized with the Dean’s Graduate Achievement Award. He also received the Best Graduate Research Award in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in 2017.