Polish-Made Robot Treats Children


Two young Polish scientists are helping place Poland on the forefront of innovation and technological advancement with their recent invention—a robot specially designed to provide therapy for children suffering from cerebral palsy and other gait issues.

Grzegorz Piątek developed the Prodrobot automatized gait trainer in 2010, which is now being used in a few clinics across Poland and will be used in more. I recently had the opportunity to speak with one of the developers, Bartłomiej Wielogórski, who works with Piątek, and oversees their newly-found company Prodromus.

What was the inspiration behind the Prodrobot?

“Grzegorz Piątek (my brother in law) is the inventor of Prodrobot. In 2010, when he was a student, he wanted to finish his studies with something which would not only be theoretical, but also a real and working device.

His colleague was a father of two boys affected by cerebral palsy. When Grzegorz heard his story, he decided to help him by building a medical device that could provide long term treatment for the boys. The resulting invention was the first prototype of the Prodrobot. After graduating, he decided to donate the robot to the boys.”

What sets the Prodrobot apart from the competition?

“The Prodrobot is the only device on the market that allows the user to train all six joints of the lower limbs at the same time, making it equivalent to having six trainers!

A sitting assistant allows the patient to adjust himself or herself while sitting and, unlike other machines, it does not have a treadmill, which makes it possible for patients with ankle joint problems to still train. It’s also extremely adjustable for patients whose limbs are different lengths.

Finally, it’s very easy to use, even for young kids. The accompanying software does not require specialized knowledge and only a few hours’ worth of training should suffice—if you can use a cash machine, you can use the Prodrobot .”

How affordable is the Prodrobot, and where is it being used?

“The Prodrobot is three to six times less expensive than other, larger gait training devices. Currently, there is a Prodrobot being used in a private healthcare center in Warsaw. Soon, Prodrobots will also be used in a private healthcare center in Krakow and a children’s hospital in northern Poland. We often showcase the Prodrobot at conferences, congresses and other events all over the country.”

How do you think that innovations like the Prodrobot will impact how the world sees Poland?

“I hope that our Prodrobot will be a very effective tool to show other nations that we have good inventors and engineers in Poland. We can manufacture, develop and sell our Prodrobot all over the world. Most importantly, we can effectively help children all over the world make their adulthood more comfortable and happy.”

Wielogórski and Piątek plan to make the Prodrobot available throughout Europe and eventually around the world. Wielogórski mentioned that they will continue to improve upon the Prodrobot and develop other rehabilitative devices as well.

For more information about the Prodrobot, visit http://www.prodromus.pl/

Poland’s World-Class Tech Industry Continues to Grow

PolishITWhen many people think of Poland, such images as pierogi, kiełbasa, and their babcia’s famous crepes come to mind. In recent years, though, Poland has become known around the world for more than its culinary contributions. The eastern European country is quickly becoming a global leader in the development and application of information technology (IT).

Poland’s IT sector has grown at an impressive rate in the past few decades. As of 2013, the total market value of the IT sector in Poland grew by four percent, reaching 21.2 billion PLN and accounting for roughly 1.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. International growth has been even more impressive. Between 1996 and 2008, Polish IT exports grew by 28 percent each year. In 2013, total IT export value reached 9 billion PLN. Overall, Poland’s IT market is among the largest in Central and Eastern Europe and is expected to grow even more.

A highly educated workforce has principally been driving the expansion of the Polish IT market. About 15 thousand Polish IT students graduate each year from prestigious schools, like AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków, knowing they are entering a steady, well-paying profession (average IT salaries are 57 percent higher than the national average). These young professionals are fluent in new technologies, multilingual and flexible, allowing them to compete and win on the global stage. In fact, they  consistently outperform other nations at international competitions, such as Google Code Jam or Top Coder. In June of 2015, Aleksandra Zemke became the first Pole to win a Global Summit Youth Award for developing an interactive simulation game. A team from Poland also recently won the U.S.-hosted Mars Rover competition.

The exemplary Polish talent and investment in IT research has resulted in many contributions to the field. Recently, two Polish innovators, Grzegorz Piątek and Bartłomiej Wielogórski, were recognized for inventing a robot that serves as a rehabilitative walking coach for children with cerebral palsy. In the realm of computer technology, the TOP500 project ranked a Polish supercomputer, called the Prometheus Machine, the 49th most powerful computer in the world. One of the most spectacular areas of growth is the Polish video game industry, which was worth an estimated $279.6 million in 2014. In 2011, the Polish-made video game Witcher 2,  by CD Projekt Red, sold  940,000 copies and won numerous awards. Then-Polish prime minister Donald Tusk even presented President Barack Obama a copy of Witcher 2 during a 2011 meeting.

In 2011, the Polish-made video game Witcher 2,  by CD Projekt Red, sold  940,000 copies and won numerous awards.

Poland is clearly becoming a leader in technological research and innovation. However, it has been challenging to keep this talent within Polish borders. According to Mirosław Janik, President of the Polish and Russian branches of the Wincor Nixdorf company, Poland lacks the culture of commercialization that exists in other countries like the United States. Although Poland is strong in research and development, it lacks the corporate interest that could monetize these technologies. As a result, many Polish IT professionals end up contracting for foreign companies, or leaving Poland altogether to seek work elsewhere. Experts agree that government and private investment in the IT industry will be crucial to retaining talent in Poland.

These challenges notwithstanding, Poland’s expanding IT sector is reinventing the country’s image across the globe. Long associated with the backwardness of the Eastern Bloc, Poland is now attracting global attention and national prestige as its technical economy moves fully into the 21st century.