Albert “Skip” Rizzo: “Interfacing with Virtual Rehabilitation”

March 8, 2013 | Valencia, Spain

Speaker: Albert “Skip” Rizzo
Host: International Conference on Recent Advances in Neurorehabilitation

Abstract: Virtual reality (VR) has undergone a transition in the past 20 years that has taken it from the realm of expensive toy and into that of functional technology. When discussion of the potential for VR applications in the human clinical and research domains first emerged in the early-1990s, the technology needed to deliver on the anticipated “visions” was not in place. Consequently, during these early years, VR suffered from a somewhat imbalanced “expectation-to-delivery” ratio, as most users trying systems during that time will attest. Yet the idea of producing simulated virtual environments that allowed for the systematic delivery of ecologically relevant stimulus events and challenges was compelling and made intuitive sense for the future of rehabilitation. That view, as well as a long and rich history of encouraging findings from the aviation simulation literature lent support to the concept that testing, training and treatment in highly proceduralized VR simulation environments would be a useful direction for psychology and rehabilitation to explore. Fortunately, since those early days we have seen revolutionary advances in the underlying VR enabling technologies (i.e., computation speed and power, graphics and image rendering technology, display systems, interface devices, immersive audio, haptics tools, tracking, intelligent agents, and authoring software) that have supported development resulting in more powerful, low-cost PC-driven Clinical VR systems. Broadband internet access and mobile technologies have also driven opportunities for patients to engage in sophisticated rehabilitation activities that are longer limited to the physical confines of the clinic. Such advances in technological “prowess” and expanded accessibility have provided new options for the conduct of rehabilitation research and intervention within more usable, useful and lower cost systems. However, the key to clinical success always requires a thoughtful assessment of what is needed to foster proper interaction in VR that addresses a focused clinical objective. Many new high fidelity rehabilitation hardware options that leverage robotics and motion platforms are getting traction in the marketplace and have been successful in supporting interaction with clinic-based treatment systems. However, to produce the sheer amount of engaged repetition required for successful clinical outcomes, low cost VR systems that can escape the clinic and deliver rehabilitation activities in the home are needed. The creation of such systems requires the use of commodity off-the-shelf interface, tracking and display technologies to promote low-cost access. This presentation will provide a brief review of the scientific evidence generated in the Clinical VR field and present an overview of the many ways that VR has evolved with advances in new software, interface, display and Virtual Human systems that will shape the future of rehabilitation. I will make the case that the technology has caught up with the early vision of VR and that this will have a meaningful impact on rehabilitation.