BackgroundRobotic rehabilitation of stroke survivors with upper extremity dysfunction may yield different outcomes depending on the robot type. Considering that excessive dependence on assistive force by robotic actuators may interfere with the patient’s active learning and participation, we hypothesised that the use of an active-assistive robot with robotic actuators does not lead to a more meaningful difference with respect to upper extremity rehabilitation than the use of a passive robot without robotic actuators. Accordingly, we aimed to evaluate the differences in the clinical and kinematic outcomes between active-assistive and passive robotic rehabilitation among stroke survivors.MethodsIn this single-blinded randomised controlled pilot trial, we assigned 20 stroke survivors with upper extremity dysfunction (Medical Research Council scale score, 3 or 4) to the active-assistive robotic intervention (ACT) and passive robotic intervention (PSV) groups in a 1:1 ratio and administered 20 sessions of 30-min robotic intervention (5 days/week, 4 weeks). The primary (Wolf Motor Function Test [WMFT]-score and -time: measures activity), and secondary (Fugl-Meyer Assessment [FMA] and Stroke Impact Scale [SIS] scores: measure impairment and participation, respectively; kinematic outcomes) outcome measures were determined at baseline, after 2 and 4 weeks of the intervention, and 4 weeks after the end of the intervention. Furthermore, we evaluated the usability of the robots through interviews with patients, therapists, and physiatrists.ResultsIn both the groups, the WMFT-score and -time improved over the course of the intervention. Time had a significant effect on the WMFT-score and -time, FMA-UE, FMA-prox, and SIS-strength; group × time interaction had a significant effect on SIS-function and SIS-social participation (all, p < 0.05). The PSV group showed better improvement in participation and smoothness than the ACT group. In contrast, the ACT group exhibited better improvement in mean speed.ConclusionsThere were no differences between the two groups regarding the impairment and activity domains. However, the PSV robots were more beneficial than ACT robots regarding participation and smoothness. Considering the high cost and complexity of ACT robots, PSV robots might be more suitable for rehabilitation in stroke survivors capable of voluntary movement.Trial registration The trial was registered retrospectively on 14 March 2018 at ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT03465267).