Before they start mixing us drinks and folding our laundry, robots are going to do some seriously important work, like helping stroke victims.

Rice university engineers are launching a two-year program to test a new joystick-based device designed to help stroke victims recover faster. Patients use the joystick to try to move objects around on a screen, and the joystick pushes back when the patients err. The technology effectively tries to get things back in sync, teaching the hand to do what the brain is asking of it.

Several other labs are using robots for stroke-rehab, too, including an ankle-focused device like the one picture here. One MIT scientist envisions an entire gym stocked with robo-assistants.-Gregory Mone

(Image credit: MIT / L. Barry Hetherington)