HIT TeamThe VRET research programme assesses how restorative virtual environments can be developed to deliver more dynamic interactive activities, such as canoeing, snorkelling, and hang-gliding.

Such developments should provide further support to the physiotherapy régimes offered to patients, and to amputees in particular, thereby helping to avoid muscular atrophy prior to the fitment of bespoke prosthetic devices.

As part of this research, optimal techniques for allowing amputees to interact freely with the environments are being investigated, including an assessment of non-contact data input systems, such as Microsoft’s Kinect and the Asus Xtion PRO (which may offer less intrusive solutions for bedside and wheel-chair mounted applications), as well as data display (plasma screens, new, lightweight head-mounted displays, projection screens, etc.).

Early trials with Kinect at the QEHB have yielded encouraging results, particularly with regard to the spatial (resolution) and temporal performance of the recording system during the capture of translational and rotation stump movements in lower-limb amputees.

Work is under way to link the residual movement capabilities of amputees with early proof-of-concept scenarios in the virtual environments.