Published on 13 Feb 2023

AI-powered massage robot to start trials in United States and Singapore

EMMA Massage Robot with Assoc Prof Linda Zhang

Image: (from right) AiTreat CEO and NTU alumnus Mr Albert Zhang; NTU Director of Biomedical Sciences and Chinese Medicine Assoc Prof Linda Zhong; Academy of Chinese Medicine Singapore Secretary General Ms Ho Chin Ee; and AiTreat Director Mr Pei Qi, with the EMMA massage robot at the Mayo Clinic. 

Singapore robotics firm AiTreat will be embarking on a new product evaluation in the United States for their massage robot powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) at Mayo Clinic, USA.

At the same time, a randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing the efficacy of the massage robot with existing therapies such as manual Tuina – a massage used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – in managing chronic low back pain is also being planned in Singapore.

The RCT will be jointly led by the Biomedical Sciences and Chinese Medicine programme at NTU and Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

The above two research projects will be using EMMA – short for Expert Manipulative Massage Automation – the flagship product of AiTreat, a start-up incubated by NTU Singapore through its innovation and enterprise company, NTUitive.

EMMA aims to alleviate the manpower shortage of skilled massage therapists and possibly to augment the work of physiotherapists in managing less complex cases in Singapore and other countries, thus helping bring down treatment costs while providing consistent high-quality treatment to every patient.

AiTreat was founded in 2015 by Dr Albert Zhang, an alumnus from the NTU’s pioneer batch of its Double Degree programme in Biomedical Sciences and Chinese Medicine. Since then, the start-up has completed a multi-million Series A funding round last year and is currently planning for its Series A+ fundraising later this year.

To set the stage for the proposed research collaboration, an EMMA demonstration was included in a four-day workshop held at the Mayo Clinic earlier last week.

The proposed clinical research protocol for the efficacy and safety of robotic Tuina was also presented by Associate Professor Linda Zhong, Director of Biomedical Sciences and Chinese Medicine at the School of Biological Sciences, NTU, and was followed by discussions among the workshop participants.

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