University researcher uses AV in stroke therapy

University researcher uses AV in stroke therapy
A researcher at the University of Portsmouth, England is creating a stroke rehabilitation programme that places patients on a treadmill in a virtual world. Wendy Powell, a PhD student at the school of Creative Technologies, has developed the system.

It works by using a 3D environment, which the patient can “explore” on a treadmill, to trick their brain into thinking that he or she is walking more slowly than they are, which in turn encourages them to walk faster and further.

Clinical trials on real patients are taking place in collaboration with experts at the McGill University in Canada where early results are encouraging.

The display system is a three sided VR cave, which uses standard Stereoscopic 3D technology in a rear projected environment. The Portsmouth solution employs a pair of Christie Vivid White 3LCD projectors and four LX38s firing onto Stewart Filmscreen rear projection screens. The environments are developed using standard 3D modelling packages and then rendered in real time as the patient explores using a treadmill to walk around, a joystick or keyboard to navigate.

To make the experience even more realistic, Powell employs a surround sound system with simulated footfalls and environmental sounds.

“The benefits to patients are three-fold,” said Powell. “Firstly it’s more interesting for them. Secondly, it’s a more lifelike experience and we find this is more effective when trying to help people regain their movement. Finally, we can introduce software 'tricks' which make the patient work harder and therefore improving the recovery times.”

The specific benefit of using a projected system rather than a traditional head-mounted-display (HMD) for the virtual environment is that it is much less encumbering for a stroke patient, and is less likely to lead to feelings of nausea.