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PRIME-VR2: The virtual rehabilitation platform

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The PRIME-VR2 initiative aims to reduce rehabilitation times and support patient recovery through virtual reality gaming.

Funded by the European Commission, the level-based gaming system will enable medical staff to track patient progress and provide virtual support.

Dr Andrew Wodehouse is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Design, Manufacture and Engineering Management at the University of Strathclyde.

His team is developing the bespoke controller which will be tailored to each patient.

What’s the idea behind PRIME-VR2?

We’re working to develop an end-to-end VR rehabilitation platform. Patient data will allow us to create bespoke VR controllers and calibrate the rehabilitation gaming environment.

There are 14 partners involved across the EU and UK, including UCL, The University of Pisa, SMEs and the Living Labs where we are applying the rehabilitation. For stroke, we’re working with NICOMED in Cyprus.

Your aim is to reduce rehab times by 30 per cent. How do you hope to achieve this?

The ultimate goal is to just make it a more efficient process. We see that happening through increased motivation and engagement.

We are developing the games using the serious games principle. The team generated about eight different environments, such as gardens, kitchens and garages. A few of those are now going forward for implementation.

The idea is that the gaming element encourages people to use the system and motivates them to stay engaged with it.

What makes PRIME-VR2 different to other gaming rehab platforms?

There is a lot of work going on in this area, including a number of commercial systems.

Where we’re trying to differentiate ourselves is the emphasis on connecting the digital information right through this process, from the scans to the clinicians prescribing the therapy to the performance and use of the games. There aren’t really any other systems that do that.

We’re also trying to keep a costs down, in terms of something that’s attainable for clinics and hospitals.

People have recognised that VR has huge potential in terms of rehabilitation. Personally, I’m interested in product interaction and this is an extremely useful way to apply the technology.

What is Strathclyde’s role in the project?

We’ve been focused on the hardware side, coming up with different prototypes and designs in terms of how we configure the controller. We’ve arrived at a modular system made using 3D printing. This allows us to tailor the controller to each specific user.

Dr Andrew Wodehouse

When we’re taking the initial scans, we’re getting very accurate information on the user’s biomechanical abilities, so we can more precisely tailor the therapy and monitor how they are performing.

How will the controller aid rehabilitation in stroke patients?

There are three different modules for the three different use cases associated with each of the Living Labs. For stroke rehabilitation, it’s a finger module.

We’re trying to get back their range of movement through repetition and varying the level of resistance associated with different exercises. We’re able to tailor that quite precisely in the controller unit that we’ve developed.

The dimensions of the controller will be unique for each person. The idea is you take the digital scan to create something that fits perfectly, remains in place and can be moved to different positions.

How far along the timeline are you?

We’re at the end of year two of a three-year project. We’ve done lots of initial engagement with our Living Labs in terms of reviewing the kinds of therapies that they do, understanding user requirements and creating a design specification. And then we went into a long period of development.

While we have been creating the bespoke housings, our partners have been developing the electronics and looking at the assembly.

We’ve done some informal testing among the team and with individual users. But we’ll soon be going through a more formal evaluation stage where we print off different controllers and test them at the different Living Labs.

Our colleagues have been developing the games and the IT infrastructure and we hope to start testing the overall platform over the next six months.

 

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