Veterans to get virtual rehab

Veterans to get virtual rehab

Researchers have developed a virtual rehabilitation system that will let therapists treat disabled veterans without being in the same room. The 3D, real-time computer model uses computer-generated avatars and paired force-feedback ‘haptic’ devices to recreate a physical therapy session over high-speed networks.

The multimedia system uses 3D cameras and off-the-shelf devices like Microsoft Kinect to create avatars of the therapist and the patient, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas, then puts them together in the same virtual space where they can interact.

Tracking the human’s movements and representing multiple views creates large amounts of data that need to be transferred in real time. For 3D tele-rehabilitation to be lifelike there can’t be any latency between action and reaction. So to speed the data transfer, the researchers created algorithms and software allow the data to be transmitted in real-time from patient to therapist over the Internet.

"To transfer all of this data requires a bandwidth greater than 100 megabits per second, which we currently can't do over the Internet," said Karthik Venkataraman, a Ph.D. student working on the project at UT Dallas. US Ignite and the Global Environment for Networking Innovations, which helped organize the Beyond Today's Internet Summit in March 2015 where the platform was demonstrated, provided the necessary bandwidth, Venkataraman told the National Science Foundation.

At the summit, the team conducted a physical therapy session in which a patient and a therapist practice sawing a log, a task that mimics the movements used by those recovering from strokes. Both participants can feel the resistance of the log and the guiding movements of their partner, just as would occur at an in-person therapy session.

The researchers say this is just one example of what can be achieved with high-speed, low-latency networking. The team is also working on extending the tele-rehabilitation system so one therapist or physician can work with multiple patients at the same time, NSF reported.

The new system will be deployed in field trials in the summer and early fall at the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center, making veterans in that region the first to use the virtual treatment to interact with remote therapists. 

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.


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