Posts Tagged oculus rift

[WEB SITE] Top 10 Virtual Reality Applications In Today’s World

The premise of virtual reality has always been exciting. Slip-on a pair of goggles or a headset, and you’re on your way to another world. Unlike at the cinema or in front of your TV screen, you’re free to interact with your surroundings and wander wherever you please.

VR exploded into public consciousness around the same time as the personal computer in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Back in those days, however, the difference between the real world and the pixel-heavy digital landscapes of the time was too great for everyone but for the most hardcore fans. As a result, VR was more or less put on the backburner for a couple of decades.

However, the birth of the Oculus Rift in 2012 and its subsequent purchase by Facebook in 2014 led to a renewal of interest in virtual reality applications. It also served as an uptick in virtual reality recruitment as companies cottoned on to the medium’s vast potential.

How Does Virtual Reality Work?

So, how does virtual reality work? Nowadays, virtual reality is implemented using computer technology via tools such as headsets, goggles, treadmills, and handsets. These tools stimulate our senses to create an illusion of reality. This is far more complicated than it seems: human physiology is calibrated to provide a finely synchronized experience, and if anything is ‘odd’, our bodies will usually let us know via unpleasant sensations such as nausea or motion sickness. A successful virtual reality experience involves careful synchronicity of software, hardware, and of our senses. The most memorable virtual reality uses are those that enable us to interact naturally with our surroundings with no latency or glitches that could create a feeling of artificiality.

This leads us to ask ourselves, “Why do we go to all that trouble to create these highly technical worlds that just aim to imitate reality?” The truth is, virtual reality applications are numerous and beneficial across many fields.

How Does Virtual Reality Work?
Photo by Sales on New Gen Apps


Ten Most Exciting Applications Of Virtual Reality

1.  Entertainment

Entertainment is an obvious application of virtual reality. Who wouldn’t want to slip on a headset and escape into another world?

The first thing that comes to mind is gaming. It is a historical virtual reality application that is still very much among the main VR uses today. Other entertainment forms are however hot on its heels. While 3D cinema has been around for quite a while now, the rise of VR headsets is providing users with immersive cinema experiences without them even having to leave the house. Apps such as Oculus Cinema enable viewers to watch movies on their very own virtual screen. At the same time, developers are working on software that will enable sports fans to cheer on their favorite teams from the comfort of their couches. An example is LiveLike VR’s virtual stadium.

Using virtual reality, music lovers can attend concerts and festivals taking place on the other side of the world. Moreover, those who have been bitten by the travel bug can wander sunny beaches without leaving their front yard. What’s not to love?

Virtual Reality In Entertainment
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2.  Training

It is essential for military personnel to gain first-hand experience of the terrain of their deployment. Likewise, when you get on a commercial flight, you assume your pilot has mastered the aircraft and can respond appropriately in any kind of emergency. But have you ever wondered how rookie soldiers and pilots get in their training hours without putting themselves in danger?

Some activities are just too dangerous, impractical, or expensive for beginners to be able to practice them from the get-go. This is where VR comes in. Virtual reality education companies offer software aimed at training new personnel. The US military uses virtual reality simulators to train soldiers before deployment. These VR simulators enable them to practice working together in the kind of environments they will come up against. Likewise, flight simulators are used to train new pilots or refresh their knowledge before they can get before the controls of a real-life plane.

Virtual Reality In Training
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 3. Healthcare

With elevated costs, a tendency towards personnel shortages, and people’s lives at stake, the healthcare industry is generally quick to adopt exciting new tech that can boost efficiency and improve performance. Virtual reality is no exception.

Medical institutions can use VR to make diagnoses and define treatments. Some VR simulators are now able to use images from MRIs or CAT scans to create 3D models of a patient’s anatomy. The training applications of virtual reality enable trainee doctors to practice surgery with no risk to patients. Moreover, they can help more experienced ones to determine the safest way to operate.

There are other interesting virtual reality applications in the healthcare industry beyond surgery and diagnoses. For rehabilitation of stroke and brain injury victims, healthcare industries use VR. It provides virtual exercises to help patients gain independence in everyday activities, aided by real-time feedback.

Virtual Reality In Healthcare
Photo by Reenita Das on Forbes


4. The Arts

Fans of the performing arts will probably find the idea of a screen between the artist and audience a strange one. However, there are many exciting virtual reality applications when it comes to theatre, opera, dance, circus, and other performing art forms that are characterized by their fleetingness. That is, you have to be there on the night, or else, it’s gone forever. VR enables you to watch a live performance at any time you please. You can even be in the best seat in your house. Why not even from the middle of the stage if you’re feeling adventurous?

There are many other virtual reality applications when it comes to the arts. Directors can create a stage set before they build it. Applications such as Tvori enable you to create 3D animations that you can walk around. The possibilities are endless!

Virtual Reality In The Arts
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5. Meditation

According to the World Health Organization, stress is the health epidemic of the 21st century. Furthermore, many seem to think that tech is part of the problem. But what if it was also part of the solution? Apps along the lines of Calm and Headspace already enable you to take a break wherever you happen to be. Moreover, VR is promising to add an extra dimension to your meditation experience.

One of the hardest things about meditation for people who are just starting their meditation journey is learning to just “let go”. Virtual reality meditation apps make that all easier by allowing you to slip on your headset and instantly slip into another world.

Virtual Reality in Meditation
Photo by Michael Gollust on Health


6. Mental Health

Virtual reality applications help you relax and let go. Likewise, its applications include therapeutic tools for people who have been through traumatizing experiences or suffer from debilitating stress, PTSD, or phobias.

Virtual reality can provide a safe virtual environment. This enables patients to come into contact with the source of their phobias or fears without endangering themselves. Moreover, interesting advances have already made notably in the field of treatment for war veterans suffering from PTSD.

Benefits Of Using Virtual Reality For Mental Health
Photo by Abbie Arce on LabRoots


7. Marketing

AI-powered data analysis is enabling digital marketers to tailor experiences to fit individual tastes like never before. At the same time, consumers are constantly bombarded with advertising. It means that banner blindness is becoming a real problem – and that’s before we even mention adblockers.

VR is a gamechanger for marketers. It enables them to provide exciting, immersive experiences with high entertainment value. In the UK, the cheese manufacturer, Boursin, recently offered a delightful virtual reality exhibit. Users were taken on a journey through a fridge filled with tasty treats, complete with wind simulators for an even more immersive experience.

8. Shopping

Imagine that you’re wandering through a fashionable SoHo boutique looking to pick out a new accessory, and at the same time on your couch several hundred miles away in your pajamas.

Online retailers are now part and parcel of our day-to-day life and are looking to get a make-over. Thanks to the power of VR. The VR start-up Trillenium creates virtual stores for online retailers and has already partnered with the likes of ASOS, one of Europe’s biggest online retailers. Instead of clicking their way through online catalogs, shoppers can go on a virtual tour of a store for a real-time shopping experience. They can even share it with their friends.

9. Journalism

Another exciting virtual reality application is on journalism and online media. VR is enabling media outlets to create immersive storytelling experiences that give the viewer the impression of truly being part of the action. Major players such as the Washington Post and the New York Times are now entering the VR field by offering 360° reports and documentaries. The New York Times made a big splash in 2014 by sending Google Cardboard headsets to its subscribers for them to use with their smartphones.

 10. Architecture

Another exciting application of virtual reality is in architecture. This is for being able to offer their clients virtual walkthroughs, a great way for firms to showcase their projects compared to more traditional 3D projection. It is by giving clients a true sense of space and design.

The potential uses of virtual reality are widespread and diverse, spanning everything from entertainment to healthcare and from journalism to digital marketing. With technology becoming cheaper and more widely available, we can expect to see many more exciting virtual reality applications in the years to come. Stay tuned!


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[ARTICLE] BCI and FES Based Therapy for Stroke Rehabilitation Using VR Facilities – Full Text


In recent years, the assistive technologies and stroke rehabilitation methods have been empowered by the use of virtual reality environments and the facilities offered by brain computer interface systems and functional electrical stimulators. In this paper, a therapy system for stroke rehabilitation based on these revolutionary techniques is presented. Using a virtual reality Oculus Rift device, the proposed system ushers the patient in a virtual scenario where a virtual therapist coordinates the exercises aimed at restoring brain function. The electrical stimulator helps the patient to perform rehabilitation exercises and the brain computer interface system and an electrooculography device are used to determine if the exercises are executed properly. Laboratory tests on healthy people led to system validation from technical point of view. The clinical tests are in progress, but the preliminary results of the clinical tests have highlighted the good satisfaction degree of patients, the quick accommodation with the proposed therapy, and rapid progress for each user rehabilitation.

1. Introduction

The worldwide statistics reported by World Health Organization highlight that stroke is the third leading cause of death and about 15 million people suffer stroke worldwide each year ‎[1]. Of these, 5 million are permanently disabled needing long time assistance and only 5 million are considered socially integrated after recovering. Recovering from a stroke is a difficult and long process that requires patience, commitment, and access to various assistive technologies and special devices. Rehabilitation is an important part of recovering and helps the patient to keep abilities or gain back lost abilities in order to become more independent. Taking into account the depression installed after stroke, it is very important for a patient to benefit from an efficient and fast rehabilitation program followed by a quick return to community living ‎[2]. In the last decade, many research groups are focused on motor, cognitive, or speech recovery after stroke like Stroke Centers from Johns Hopkins Institute ‎[3], ENIGMA-Stroke Recovery ‎[4], or StrokeBack Consortium funded by European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme ‎[5]. Important ICT companies bring a major contribution to the development of technologies and equipment that can be integrated into rehabilitation systems. For example, Stroke Recovery with Kinect is a research project to build an interactive and home-rehabilitation system for motor recovery after a stroke based on Microsoft Kinect technology ‎[6].

In the last years, the virtual reality (VR) applications received a boost in development due to VR headset prices that dropped below $1000, allowing them to become a mass-market product ‎[7]. The VR was and still is especially used for military training or video games to provide some sense of realism and interaction with the virtual environment to its users ‎[8]. Now it attracts more and more the interest of physicians and therapist which are exploring the potential of VR headset and augmented reality (AR) to improve the neuroplasticity of the brain, to be used in neurorehabilitation and treatment of motor/mental disorders ‎[9]. However, considering the diversity of interventions and methods used, there is no evidence that VR therapy alone can be efficacious compared with other traditional therapies for a particular type of impairment ‎[10]. This does not mean that the potential of VR was overestimated and the results are not the ones that were expected. The VR therapy must be complemented with other forms of rehabilitation technologies like robotic therapy, brain computer interface (BCI) and functional electrical stimulation (FES) therapy, and nevertheless traditional therapy to provide a more targeted approach ‎[11].

SaeboVR is a virtual rehabilitation system exclusively focusing on activities of daily living and uses a virtual assistant that appears on the screen to educate and facilitate performance by providing real-time feedback ‎[12]. The neurotechnology company MindMaze has introduced MindMotion PRO, a 3D virtual environment therapy for upper limb neurorehabilitation incorporating virtual reality-based physical and cognitive exercise games into stroke rehabilitation programs ‎[13]. At New York Dynamic Neuromuscular Rehabilitation, the CAREN (Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment) based on VR is currently used to treat patients poststroke and postbrains injuries ‎[14]. EVREST Multicentre has achieved remarkable results regarding the use of VR exercises in stroke rehabilitation ‎[15].

Motor imagery (MI) is a technique used in poststroke rehabilitation for a long time ago. One of its major problems was that there was not an objective method to determine whether the user is performing the expected movement imagination. MI-based BCIs can quantify the motor imagery and output signals that can be used for controlling an external device such as a wheelchair, neuroprosthesis, or computer. The FES therapy combined with MI-based BCI became a promising technique for stroke rehabilitation. Instead of providing communication, in this case, MI is used to induce closed-loop feedback within conventional poststroke rehabilitation therapy. This approach is called paired stimulation (PS) due to the fact that it pairs each user’s motor imagery with stimulation and feedback, such as activation of a functional electrical stimulator (FES), avatar movement, and/or auditory feedback ‎[16]. Recent research from many groups showed that MI can be recorded in the clinical environment from patients and used to control real-time feedback and at the same time, they support the hypothesis that PS could improve the rehabilitation therapy outcome ‎[1721].

In a recent study, Irimia et al. ‎[22] have proved the efficacy of combining motor imagery, bar feedback, and real hand movements by testing a system combining a MI-based BCI and a neurostimulator on three stroke patients. In every session, the patients had to imagine 120 left-hand and 120 right-hand movements. The visual feedback was provided in form of an extending bar on the screen. During the trials where the correct imagination was classified, the FES was activated in order to induce the opening of the corresponding hand. All patients achieved high control accuracies and exhibited improvements in motor function. In a later study, Cho et al. ‎[23] present the results of two patients who performed the BCI training with first-person avatar feedback. After the study, both patients reported improvements in motor functions and both have improved their scores on Upper Extremity Fugl-Meyer Assessment scale. Even if the number of patients presented in these two studies is low, they support the idea that this kind of systems may bring additional benefits to the rehabilitation process outcome in stroke patients.

2. General System Architecture

The BCI-FES technique presented in this paper is part of a much more complex system designed for stroke rehabilitation called TRAVEE ‎[24], presented in Figure 1. The stimulation devices, the monitoring devices, the VR headset, and a computer running the software are the main modules of the TRAVEE system. The stimulation devices help the patient to perform the exercises and the monitoring devices are used to determine if the exercises are executed properly, according to the proposed scenarios. Actually, the TRAVEE system must be seen as a software kernel that allows defining a series of rehabilitation exercises using a series of USB connectable devices. This approach is very useful because it offers the patient the options to buy, borrow, or rent the abovementioned devices according to his needs and after connection, the therapist may choose the suitable set of exercises.[…]


Continue —> BCI and FES Based Therapy for Stroke Rehabilitation Using VR Facilities

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[WEB SITE] How Virtual Avatars Help Stroke Patients Improve Motor Function

At USC, Dr. Sook-Lei Liew is testing whether watching a virtual avatar that moves in response to brain commands can activate portions of the brain damaged by stroke.
Dr. Sook-Lei Liew (Photo: Nate Jensen)

Photo: Nate Jensen

I am hooked up to a 16-channel brain machine interface with 12 channels of EEG on my head and ears and four channels of electromyography (EMG) on my arms. An Oculus Rift occludes my vision.

Two inertial measurement units (IMU) are stuck to my wrists and forearms, tracking the orientation of my arms, while the EMG monitors my electrical impulses and peripheral nerve activity.

Dr. Sook-Lei Liew, Director of USC’s Neural Plasticity and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory, and Julia Anglin, Research Lab Supervisor and Technician, wait to record my baseline activity and observe a monitor with a representation of my real arm and a virtual limb. I see the same image from inside the Rift.

“Ready?” asks Dr. Liew. “Don’t move—or think.”

I stay still, close my eyes, and let my mind go blank. Anglin records my baseline activity, allowing the brain-machine interface to take signals from the EEG and EMG, alongside the IMU, and use that data to inform an algorithm that drives the virtual avatar hand.

“Now just think about moving your arm to the avatar’s position,” says Dr. Liew.

I don’t move a muscle, but think about movement while looking at the two arms on the screen. Suddenly, my virtual arm moves toward the avatar appendage inside the VR world.

VR rehab at USC

Something happened just because I thought about it! I’ve read tons of data on how this works, even seen other people do it, especially inside gaming environments, but it’s something else to experience it for yourself.

“Very weird isn’t it?” says David Karchem, one of Dr. Liew’s trial patients. Karchem suffered a stroke while driving his car eight years ago, and has shown remarkable recovery using her system.

“My stroke came out of the blue and it was terrifying, because I suddenly couldn’t function. I managed to get my car through an intersection and call the paramedics. I don’t know how,” Karchem says.

He gets around with a walking stick today, and has relatively normal function on the right side of his body. However, his left side is clearly damaged from the stroke. While talking, he unwraps surgical bandages and a splint from his left hand, crooked into his chest, to show Dr. Liew the progress since his last VR session.

As a former software engineer, Karchem isn’t fazed by using advanced technology to aid the clinical process. “I quickly learned, in fact, that the more intellectual and physical stimulation you get, the faster you can recover, as the brain starts to fire. I’m something of a lab rat now and I love it,” he says.


Karchem is participating in Dr. Liew’s REINVENT (Rehabilitation Environment using the Integration of Neuromuscular-based Virtual Enhancements for Neural Training) project, funded by the American Heart Association, under a National Innovative Research Grant. It’s designed to help patients who have suffered strokes reconnect their brains to their bodies.

VR rehab at USC (Photo: Nate Jensen)“My PhD in Occupational Science, with a concentration in Cognitive Neuroscience, focused on how experience changes brain networks,” explains Dr. Liew. “I continued this work as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health, before joining USC, in my current role, in 2015.

“Our main goal here is to enhance neural plasticity or neural recovery in individuals using noninvasive brain stimulation, brain-computer interfaces and novel learning paradigms to improve patients’ quality of life and engagement in meaningful activities,” she says.

Here’s the science bit: the human putative mirror neuron system (MNS) is a key motor network in the brain that is active both when you perform an action, like moving your arm, and when you simply watch someone else—like a virtual avatar—perform that same action. Dr. Liew hypothesizes that, for stroke patients who can’t move their arm, simply watching a virtual avatar that moves in response to their brain commands will activate the MNS and retrain damaged or neighboring motor regions of the brain to take over the role of motor performance. This should lead to improved motor function.

“In previous occupational therapy sessions, we found many people with severe strokes got frustrated because they didn’t know if they were activating the right neural networks when we asked them to ‘think about moving’ while we physically helped them to do so,” Dr. Liew says. “If they can’t move at all, even if the right neurological signals are happening, they have no biological feedback to reinforce the learning and help them continue the physical therapy to recover.”

For many people, the knowledge that there’s “intent before movement”—in that the brain has to “think” about moving before the body will do so, is news. We also contain a “body map” inside our heads that predicts our spacetime presence in the world (so we don’t bash into things all the time and know when something is wrong). Both of these brain-body elements face massive disruption after a stroke. The brain literally doesn’t know how to help the body move.

What Dr. Liew’s VR platform has done is show patients how this causal link works and aid speedier, and less frustrating, recovery in real life.

From the Conference Hall to the Lab

She got the idea while geeking out in Northern California one day.

“I went to the Experiential Technology Conference in San Francisco in 2015, and saw demos of intersections of neuroscience and technology, including EEG-based experiments, wearables, and so on. I could see the potential to help our clinical population by building a sensory-visual motor contingency between your own body and an avatar that you’re told is ‘you,’ which provides rewarding sensory feedback to reestablish brain-body signals.

“Inside VR you start to map the two together, it’s astonishing. It becomes an automatic process. We have seen that people who have had a stroke are able to ’embody’ an avatar that does move, even though their own body, right now, cannot,” she says.

VR rehab at USC

Dr. Liew’s system is somewhat hacked together, in the best possible Maker Movement style; she built what didn’t exist and modified what did to her requirements.

“We wanted to keep costs low and build a working device that patients could actually afford to buy. We use Oculus for the [head-mounted display]. Then, while most EEG systems are $10,000 or more, we used an OpenBCI system to build our own, with EMG, for under $1,000.

“We needed an EEG cap, but most EEG manufacturers wanted to charge us $200 or more. So, we decided to hack the rest of the system together, ordering a swim cap from Amazon, taking a mallet and bashing holes in it to match up where the 12 positions on the head electrodes needed to be placed (within the 10-10 international EEG system). We also 3D print the EEG clips and IMU holders here at the lab.

VR rehab at USC

“For the EMG, we use off-the-shelf disposable sensors. This allows us to track the electromyography, if they do have trace muscular activity. In terms of the software platform, we coded custom elements in C#, from Microsoft, and implemented them in the Unity3D game engine.”

Dr. Liew is very keen to bridge the gap between academia and the tech industry; she just submitted a new academic paper with the latest successful trial results from her work for publication. Last year, she spoke at SXSW 2017 about how VR affects the brain, and debuted REINVENT at the conference’s VR Film Festival. It received a “Special Jury Recognition for Innovative Use of Virtual Reality in the Field of Health.”

Going forward, Dr. Liew would like to bring her research to a wider audience.


“I feel the future of brain-computer interfaces splits into adaptive, as with implanted electrodes, and rehabilitative, which is what we work on. What we hope to do with REINVENT is allow patients to use our system to re-train their neural pathways, [so they] eventually won’t need it, as they’ll have recovered.

“We’re talking now about a commercial spin-off potential. We’re able to license the technology right now, but, as researchers, our focus, for the moment, is in furthering this field and delivering more trial results in published peer-reviewed papers. Once we have enough data we can use machine learning to tailor the system precisely for each patient and share our results around the world.”

If you’re in L.A., Dr. Liew and her team will be participating in the Creating Reality VR Hackathon from March 12-15 at USC. Details here.

via How Virtual Avatars Help Stroke Patients Improve Motor Function | News & Opinion |

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[Abstract+References] Impact of commercial sensors in human computer interaction: a review


Nowadays, the communication gap between humans and computers might be reduced due to multimodal sensors available in the market. Therefore, it is important to know the specifications of these sensors and how they are being used in order to create human computer interfaces, which tackle complex tasks. The purpose of this paper is to review recent research regarding the up-to-date application areas of the following sensors:

(1) Emotiv sensor, which identifies emotions, facial expressions, thoughts, and head movements from users through electroencephalography signals,

(2) Leap motion controller, which recognizes hand and arm movements via vision techniques,

(3) Myo armband, which identifies hand and arm movements using electromyography signals and inertial sensors, and

(4) Oculus rift, which provides immersion into virtual reality to users.

The application areas discussed in this manuscript go from assistive technology to virtual tours. Finally, a brief discussion regarding advantages and shortcomings of each sensor is presented.


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[Abstract] Motion Rehab AVE 3D: A VR-based exergame for post-stroke rehabilitation


Background and objective

Recent researches about games for post-stroke rehabilitation have been increasing, focusing in upper limb, lower limb and balance situations, and showing good experiences and results. With this in mind, this paper presents Motion Rehab AVE 3D, a serious game for post-stroke rehabilitation of patients with mild stroke. The aim is offer a new technology in order to assist the traditional therapy and motivate the patient to execute his/her rehabilitation program, under health professional supervision.


The game was developed with Unity game engine, supporting Kinect motion sensing input device and display devices like Smart TV 3D and Oculus Rift. It contemplates six activities considering exercises in a tridimensional space: flexion, abduction, shoulder adduction, horizontal shoulder adduction and abduction, elbow extension, wrist extension, knee flexion, and hip flexion and abduction. Motion Rehab AVE 3D also report about hits and errors to the physiotherapist evaluate the patient’s progress.


A pilot study with 10 healthy participants (61–75 years old) tested one of the game levels. They experienced the 3D user interface in third-person. Our initial goal was to map a basic and comfortable setup of equipment in order to adopt later. All the participants (100%) classified the interaction process as interesting and amazing for the age, presenting a good acceptance.


Our evaluation showed that the game could be used as a useful tool to motivate the patients during rehabilitation sessions. Next step is to evaluate its effectiveness for stroke patients, in order to verify if the interface and game exercises contribute into the motor rehabilitation treatment progress.

Source: Motion Rehab AVE 3D: A VR-based exergame for post-stroke rehabilitation – ScienceDirect

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[WEB SITE] Reh@Panel (formerly RehabNet CP) – NeuroRehabLab Tools


Reh@Panel (formerly RehabNet CP) acts as a device router, bridging a large number of tracking devices and other hardware with the RehabNet Training Games for the patient to interact with. Reh@Panel implements the communication protocols in a client/server architecture. Native device support for:

Electrophysiological Data


  • Emotiv EPOC neuro-headset is intergrated for acquiring raw EEG data, gyroscope data, facial expressions and Emotiv’s Expressiv™, Cognitiv™ and Affectiv™ suite
  • Neurosky EEG headset is supported for raw EEG acquisition and eSense™ meters of attention and meditation
  • Myoelectric orthosis mPower 1000 (Myomo Inc, Boston, USA) is supported, providing 2 EMG channels and adjustable levels of assistance


more —> Reh@Panel (formerly RehabNet CP) | NeuroRehabLab Tools

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[WEB SITE] Virtual Reality and Rehabilitation — A Perfect Match?

9.2.2016 Ville Lahtinen

This is a story about VR Rehab. The story started last September in Demola, when a team of six students from different fields came together to work on a project called “Rehabilitation Using Virtual Reality”. During the course of the next four months this team explored the possibilities that VR brings to the world of rehabilitation.

Our team consisted of two coders, one business specialist, two health professionals, and me, the UX design / branding guy. The device Vincit gave us, Samsung Gear VR, proved to be a really nice headset with one small drawback: it doesn’t offer any hand tracking possibilities. And as hand movements play a pretty big role in many rehabilitation exercises, this was a challenge. But we of course like challenges.

The first target group we started designing for were hemispatial neglect patients. Neglect is a complex neurophysiological condition in which patients fail to be aware of items to one side of space. The majority of neglect patients are old people with brain injuries, and this target group quickly turned out to be a bit too challenging for us, as virtual reality is so immersive and therefore maybe a bit frightening for many older people.

After some more research we came up with the idea of a balance training game. Balance problems are common and their rehabilitation doesn’t necessarily require awareness of hand positions. The basic idea of the game was quickly formed: the patients’ objective is to focus their gaze on moving objects and keep looking at them for a certain time period. In the first version of the game these objects are fish and the background is an underwater view.

Everything in the game is meant to be fully customizable for each patient separately, though because of time-related constraints our team didn’t have the resources to fully implement everything we planned. Also with the help of a 360 degree camera the background could in theory be changed to a view that is meaningful for the patient. So if the patient for example has to spend large amounts of time indoors, this way they could visit familiar places virtually.

catch the fish

We did some user testing with our game at Pirkanmaan Erikoiskuntoutus, and the feedback we got was really positive. With some more work the game will certainly be of use for many patients. For example added levels and awards would probably make the game even more interesting and motivating.

In the coming months the first “real” VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, will be released to the consumer market. The possibilities they offer for rehabilitation purposes are much bigger, not just because of hand tracking, but also because of the added computational power. Therefore we put our thoughts in the future and also made a prototype for a platform, which would function as a collection of different games and experiences designed for rehabilitation use. This platform would store patient data so that all the progress could easily be tracked and monitored, and naturally it would work with every headset.

All in all we are pretty satisfied with the end result. Of course lots of things could have been made differently and more efficiently, but the goal was to explore the possibilities of VR, and that is what we did. Probably every team member also got new valuable experiences while working on this project. The victory of the Demola season we aimed for was frustratingly close, as we came second, but at least there were 25 teams behind us.

user testing

I’m convinced that virtual reality has lots of potential in making rehabilitation more fun and motivating. If you want to read more about the journey, please visit our blog.

Ville Lahtinen

Virtual Reality and Rehabilitation — A Perfect Match? – Ohjelmistotalo Vincit Oy

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[BLOG POST] Virtual And Augmented Reality: A World of Potential for People with Disabilities

Gamers are already mostly familiar with the possibilities of virtual reality and are eagerly awaiting the shipment of multiple VR titles and headsets. This gives them a leg up on medical professionals, who might dismiss it as merely a frivolous gaming tool. The truth is that this new gaming development could have wide-ranging applications in healthcare particularly in the treatment of those suffering from autism or disability.

The latest incarnations of virtual reality are a far cry from the clunky, headache-inducing units that achieved notoriety in the ’90s. The models that are expected to hit the marketplace very soon use advanced graphics capabilities and motion sensing equipment to deliver experiences that are realistic, attractive and appealing. The user usually has to put on a special headset that projects high-res images in front of the eyes. In order to control the action and change the view, he or she uses a combination of eye and head movements and hand-held devices.

Three large firms intend to release VR gear in 2016: Facebook, Sony and Microsoft. Facebook purchased the Oculus Rift, which is perhaps the frontrunner in the VR landscape, in 2014. It will work with regular computers as a plug-in peripheral. Sony’s Project Morpheus, on the other hand, is designed to act as a controller for the PlayStation 4 console. Microsoft is serious about making its mark in this newly emerging industry and has even created a special version of Windows to support its HoloLens. The HoloLens differs from most competing products by mixing holographic elements with the real world instead of just featuring a made-up world.

A VR system by MindMaze in Switzerland shows promise in treating those with motor ability impairments. The patient’s head is wired up with electrodes, and then he or she tries to manipulate a virtual arm or leg. This causes the brain to more effectively use new neurons or repair damaged ones to compensate for the injury. The CEO of MindMaze has stated that motor function can improve by up to 35 percent after three weeks of using the system.

Autistic people, who often have difficulty interacting in the real world, may find respite in an imaginary setting. A study in North Carolina found that children with autism were willing and able to enter a virtual world, observe their surroundings and move around. Another program at the University of Texas, Dallas explored the use of VR to enable autistic people to work on their social skills by partaking in virtual social interactions. The results showed that those who participated in the study had heightened brain activity in the parts of the brain responsible for social perception.

Virtual reality can extend the capabilities of people who are disabled or suffer from debilitating illnesses. Through the use of a VR system developed by FOVE, even people who have lost the use of their hands can play the piano by using eye movements and blinks to select the notes to play. Another simulation, all the way back in 1994, allowed a boy with cerebral palsy to take a virtual stroll through a grassy field.

Many of the medical applications of VR also translate well into other spheres of society. The ability to enter make-believe environments could be useful in education by allowing students to study distant or bygone places and in sports by enabling people to virtually attend contests and cheer for their teams. In architecture and home security, people could see how proposed changes to a building’s design and various security systems would actually function before doing the remodeling work. The potential uses in marketing are enormous and include advertising, product demos and virtual property tours.

Access to nearly infinite fictional, virtual worlds opens up space for treatments that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. As the technology continues to improve and prices get lower, we’ll see a growing use of VR systems to help people with a broad range of conditions, including many disabilities. This will be only a part of a broader move by society as a whole to embrace these exciting advancements.

Source: Assistive Technology Blog: Virtual And Augmented Reality: A World of Potential for People with Disabilities

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[ARTICLE] An Approach to Physical Rehabilitation Using State-of-the-art Virtual Reality and Motion Tracking Technologies – Full Text PDF


This paper explores an approach to physical rehabilitation using state-of-the-art technologies in virtual reality and motion tracking; in particular, Oculus Rift DK2 (released in July, 2014) and Intel RealSense (released in November, 2014) are used. A game is developed which requires from the patient to perform an established set of abduction and adduction arm movements to achieve rotator cuff rehabilitation after injury. While conduct of clinical trials is outside the scope of this work, experts in physical rehabilitation working in the medical field have carried out a preliminary evaluation, showing encouraging results.

Full Text PDF

Source: An Approach to Physical Rehabilitation Using State-of-the-art Virtual Reality and Motion Tracking Technologies



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