All About the InMotion Robot

Britannica defines rehabilitation robots1 as “any automatically operated machine that is designed to improve movement in persons with impaired physical functioning.” It names the MIT-Manus as the first rehabilitation robot.

This article will explore the genesis and history of the InMotion robotic systems.

What’s the connection between the MIT-Manus and the InMotion robot of today?

The 2021 InMotion Robot is the fourth generation of the original design, first developed in 1989 as a part of an engineering thesis paper at MIT. The original research device was called the ‘MIT-Manus’ and the device still appears in research studies today.

Manus means “hand” in Latin

There are over 200 peer-reviewed studies that have been done since the inception of the device in the late 80’s, and the InMotion robot of today is the most highly researched rehabilitation robot on the market.

The science behind InMotion Robotics

The MIT-Manus was designed to provide movement data and train upper extremity reach. It uses a mathematical model based on research findings that suggest that reach follows a bell-shaped velocity curve. This mathematical model is used in the InMotion device’s large portfolio of patient activities.

Bell curve

Velocity is “the time rate of change of position of a body in a specified direction.” 2

Two types of movement data the InMotion robots record are kinetic and kinematic movement data.

Merriam Webster defines Kinetics4 as “a branch of science that deals with the effects of forces upon the motions of material bodies or with changes in a physical or chemical system.”

Kinematics is defined as the “Independent motion of joints or body segments.” 3

Kinematic analysis of movement involves the measurement of position, velocity, and acceleration of one or more body parts.” 5

Initial research that inspired the InMotion device found that patients that had sustained a stroke fell below the normative velocity curve for reach patterns in the upper extremity. This makes sense, considering impaired coordination and control can be very common following stroke.

This model was based on previous studies that suggested that two-joint arm movements, with practice, exponentially reduced variability in the trajectories of the hand over time. See the abstract.7

In layman’s terms, smoothness and coordination of movement were found to improve over time with movement practice in the upper extremity following a stroke.

The device became a power-house for state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics, tracking kinematic data like positioning, velocity, and forces.

InMotion Becomes BIONIK

Therapist with InMotion Arm and Patient in a Powerchair

BIONIK, purchased InMotion Technologies in 2016. There have been four generations of the InMotion robots with differing configurations, starting with the first MIT-Manus research device.

The current line-up of products includes the InMotion ARM, and the InMotion ARM/HAND device. BIONIK’s newest product, InMotion Connect provides advanced data analytics on a cloud-based virtual platform.

What populations does it treat?

The InMotion robots are intended for the evaluation and treatment of patients with upper-extremity impairments following a neurological condition or injury.

Research supports the use of the robot for treatment of stroke, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, acquired brain injury and other neurologic conditions. Check out this sampling of research. 

The robot can be used during the acute, sub-acute and chronic stages of neurological rehabilitation across a diverse spectrum of patient populations and ability levels.

This can provide a new level of engagement and sense of achievement for patients that might not otherwise be able to participate in interactive activities with high-intensity upper extremity motor repetitions.

Every patient has the potential to achieve the repetitions and intensity required8 for neuroplasticity9, or changes in neural connections in the brain.

What Environment can I find the InMotion Robot?

The InMotion robot is most commonly found in inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation settings. It is primarily used by occupational therapists and physical therapists, and in some cases by speech therapists, for patient treatment in these settings.

What movements does it work on in therapy?

The InMotion ARM and ARM/HAND devices operate in a horizontal plane, performing all major motions of the shoulder and elbow, including shoulder internal and external rotation, protraction and retraction, and flexion and extension, as well as elbow flexion and extension. The InMotion ARM/HAND provides all these motions and more with the addition of hand grasp and release.

The device was designed with low friction and inertia in mind providing a ‘gravity-eliminated’ feel so patients with little to no movement can still participate in therapy exercises.

InMotion has both active-assisted and gravity-eliminated activities.

Does the InMotion Robot Have Cognitive Training Features?

The InMotion robot features cognitive skills in all of its activities including visual tracking and scanning, attention, initiation and execution skills. The robot features activities that range from basic 1-2 step cognitive cues to advanced multi-step motor and cognitive tasks that require alternating and sustained attention.

What About Patient Data?

The InMotion robot continually collects and stores patient data during evaluations and therapy sessions. This data is processed and collated into easy-to-read evaluation and session reports.

Reports can be pulled up during live sessions to review with a patient, or at any time in the future from the device’s report logs. Administrators can also pull reports that provide analysis on device utilization.

BIONIK’s InMotion Connect  platform can assist administrators and therapists in tracking robot utilization and usage data on the cloud across multiple devices and facilities within a healthcare network.

What Types of Data Do You Collect and analyze?

The InMotion robots report many different types of data such as strength, smoothness and coordination of movement, range of motion, speed and more! The robot uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze a patient’s data and progress over time.

Is this technology time-efficient for patient treatment?

Setup with the InMotion robot takes no more than a few minutes. It does not require a lengthy measurement process before setting up a patient session or the calibration of multiple joint positions like many exoskeletal systems.

Where can I learn more about rehabilitation technology options?

The world of rehabilitation technology is constantly changing.

Check out our Rehabilitation Robotics: An Unofficial Guide  to learn more about these devices.

To hear more about the value of rehabilitation technology and recommendations from an administrative perspective, check out BIONIK’s Interview with Donna Robacker from Kindred Healthcare.

Our Mission at BIONIK

Our mission at BIONIK is to provide quality of life solutions to those affected by movement impairments.

Our goal is to enable the millions of people affected to lead fuller and more independent lives by fostering hope, recovery and independence with evidence-based technologies, spanning the continuum of rehabilitation care.


  1. Reinkensmeyer, David J.. “rehabilitation robot”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 4 Aug. 2021, Accessed 23 December 2021.
  2. (n.d.). Velocity Definition & meaning. Retrieved December 23, 2021, from
  3. Kinematics. Kinematics – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2021, from
  4. “Kinetics.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Dec. 2021.
  5. Seidenberg, P. H., & Beutler, A. I. (2008). The Sports Medicine Resource Manual. Elsevier Saunders.
  6. Harvey S. Singer, … Joseph Jankovic, in Movement Disorders in Childhood (Second Edition), 2016
  7. Flash, T., & Hogan, N. (1985). The coordination of arm movements: An experimentally confirmed mathematical model. The Journal of Neuroscience, 5(7), 1688–1703.
  8. Kleim JA, Jones TA. Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: implications for rehabilitation after brain damage. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2008 Feb;51(1):S225-39. doi: 10.1044/1092-4388(2008/018). PMID: 18230848.
  9. Rugnetta, M. (2020, September 3). neuroplasticity. Encyclopedia Britannica.
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