Physical therapy is just about to get a little less….physical.
Researchers at the University of Dallas have created a method of recreating the same effects of a real-life physical therapy….but without the whole reality part. Well, to an extent. The cyber rehabilitation system imitates the same kind of experience that a patient would have during a real-life session with an accredited physical therapist. This could potentially have the ability to help patients who are unable to practice rehabilitation in person. This means that they could continue to work on increasing their mobility from even the most remote of locations. Karthik Venkataraman, a Ph.D who has been working on these computer-enable health technologies said, “We’re trying to virtualize a physical therapy session in which a patient and a therapist cannot be present at the same location.”
The internet has been such a revolutionary part of our lives; affecting how we talk to family and friends, how we learn, how we work, and more. It only makes sense that virtual physical therapy would be the next frontier in the digital age. That’s why US Ignite and the Global Environment for Networking Innovations (GENI.) These teams have been able to use technology that are between 40 and 100 times faster than the standard internet we use everyday (i.e. the browser you’re on right now, for instance.) Lag time is something that can’t happen in order for this tele-rehabilitiation to be effective (as in, to be lifelike) between the action and reaction. That means, that currently this PT technology can’t be done over the internet.
The team behind this innovative technology first showed their device back at the Beyond Today’s Internet Summit in March of this year. The first ones to give this virtual rehab technique a go will be the patients at the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center this June.
How does it work?
The cyber physical therapy sessions are part a virtual 3D (computer-generated world) environment, part real-time video, and a “haptic” device that can capture the same benefits as the physical touch parts of PT appointments. The method actually involves a real therapist at one location with a patient at other. They both work together and receive feedback from the actions of one another through the use of the highly-sensitive haptic device that closely resembles a joystick. When the patient is able to move the “haptic joystick,” the PT is able to know exactly what the patient is doing so that they can guide them. It works just as if the patient and the therapist were working together in a real office. In fact, the system usilizes Microsoft Kinect to produce real-time 3-D models of both the patient and doctor.
Maybe in the future more therapists will be able to reach patients through technologies like this. It could be a great way to provide 24/7 rehab care and even possibly help with the therapy staff shortages. Plus, any kind of activity you can do from home without even putting on real pants is cool in my book.