The University of Central Florida will
immerse stroke survivors in a virtual world full of flying insects to
help expand their range of movement.
Researchers in UCF’s Media Convergence Lab (MCL) are teaming up with
the California-based Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC) to create the
program and software that can track patients’ progress.
VRMC obtained a contract last year from the National Science Foundation
to develop the virtual program, and the company teamed up with the UCF
researchers for preliminary work. The research team since has landed a
$199,000 contract to create a fully functional virtual game.В
Although the game could change slightly, the design will require
patients to put on goggles while sitting at a table. A few bugs would
fly around nearby. The patients’ mission is to smash all of the
virtual insects. Each time they succeed, they would earn a point. As
patients improve their range of motion, more bugs would appear at
greater distances, forcing patients to work harder and increase their
range of motion. Think of a 21st-century version of the childhood game
“It has to be fun so patients will actually do their physical therapy
exercises,” said Eileen Smith, associate director of UCF’s Media
Convergence Lab at the Institute of Simulation and Training.
“One of the sad things about stroke is that it is very isolating,”
she said. “If we can make the game fun for everyone, maybe
grandchildren will jump in while grandma is doing her exercises. Then it
won’t just be a physical therapy session; it will be family time. It
will help patients re-engage.”
Smith is collaborating with the project’s lead researcher, Charles
Hughes, director of the Media Convergence Lab and a professor in UCF’s
School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. During their
preliminary work, they found that UCF could produce a viable and
reproducible program with software to track patients’ progress.
Funding for the second phase also will include $99,000 from the Florida
High Tech Corridor.
“We’re ecstatic,” Smith said.В “It’s our lab’s first phase
II contract, and it is exactly the kind of thing we want. It goes with
our lab’s philosophy. We don’t want to create cool widgets. We want
to create things people can actually use to better their lives.”
Smith and her team are working with a doctor and a physical therapist
along with VRMC to create the prototype. UCF will deliver it to VRMC by
the end of 2009 and provide a license to VRMC to enable
VRMC plans to introduce the program to physical therapy clinics.
Eventually, Mark Wiederhold, VRMC’s president, said the company would
market the product as a take-home program that patients could run on
their computers or hand-held devices.
Wiederhold is a physician who has authored more than 200 journal
articles. He said he partnered with UCF because it is a leader in
“UCF is in a leadership position in this area of research,”
Wiederhold said.В “They are a very important team member on this
project. UCF has a collaborating spirit. . . They get it.”
That’s part of the reason Wiederhold will be opening a new office in
Lake Nona’s Medical City. VRMC, which already has an office in
Orlando, then will be close to UCF’s new College of Medicine, with
which Wiederhold is collaborating on other projects.
UCF Stands For Opportunity –The University of Central Florida is a
metropolitan research university that ranks as the 6th largest in the
nation with more than 50,000 students. UCF’s first classes were offered
in 1968. The university offers impressive academic and research
environments that power the region’s economic development. UCF’s culture
of opportunity is driven by our diversity, Orlando environment, history
of entrepreneurship and our youth, relevance and energy. For more
information visit ucf.edu
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