People who suffered a stroke, or spinal cord injury, still rely on the use of exhaustive physical therapy for recovery. When the aftereffects of these illnesses act on upper limbs as the hand, this causes a great impact on their quality of life. As alternative resources to the physical therapy, functional electrical stimulation and exoskeletons, or wearable robotic gloves, are becoming consolidated as important resources to help address this problem. Functional electrical stimulation has been proved to be an efficient rehabilitative technology, while exoskeletons are assistive technologies that are helping people with deficiencies in their daily activities. In order to put these technologies to work together, we developed a hybrid control strategy, making use of a tendon-driven robotic glove and functional electrical stimulation. In order to stimulate the patient during the rehabilitation process and to provide neurofeedback that catalyzes the rehabilitative effect, we aim at building Virtual Reality (VR) scenarios. These VR scenarios will provide a playful way to train the patient and motivate them to do more by beating their own scores while logging progresses that the caregiver will be able to monitor. In the VR world, the patient will be able to see an avatar of his/her own hand and fingers and will be asked to do some grasping or reaching tasks, using the hybrid robotic glove, such as popping balloons in a limited time or mounting a puzzle. The detection of the finger motion will be done using a leap motion sensor, mounted on a VR headset. This scientific initiation aims at specifying and developing the VR scenarios, as well as assisting the physiotherapists and researchers in gathering and analyzing the data from the patients to evaluate the rehabilitation process. This project is supervised by Prof. Eric Rohmer and is linked to a sub-project of the BRAINN "Study and development of assistive and rehabilitation technologies for neurological patients", coordinated by Prof. Gabriela Castellano.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: