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---- PROTOTYPE --------- PURPOSE: To create a prototype electronic tactile balance vest for individuals with balance disabilities. Researchers at UCLA’s Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology (CASIT) are developing a vest that could improve the rehabilitation process while an individual is at the clinic and then go home with them afterward.
UCLA's tactile vest is self-contained and portable, sporting the electronic control system, accelerometers across the shoulders, and pneumatic balloon actuators. The air tank is strapped on at the bottom right. The vest measures how the upper body rotates and tilts as a person walks. If the torso wobbles, accelerometers on the shoulders detect those movements. Then a control system inflates various silicone balloons, which are 25 millimeters in diameter on the outer edge. One pair is attached above the rib cage, against the chest; another pair is on the back between the shoulder blades; and two more pairs, one each on the left and right mid-shoulders, rest over the trapezius muscles. By inflating with various pressures and on different sides of the body, the balloons give the wearer a physical cue that he is listing to port or starboard. Other such vest-based tactile feedback systems exist, but are mainly used for flight-based simulators or gaming applications, not for physical rehabilitation or balance problems according to Martin Culjat, one of the lead researchers on the project. The key technology is pneumatics. The patented actuator has a specially bonded membrane that allows the balloon to be inflated with high pressure, ensuring that a wearer will feel the push. The pneumatic components are compact enough to fit on the vest, and the control system provides almost instantaneous feedback and negates the issue of desensitization of tactile forces overtime. The vest tactile system can be used with leg prosthesis with a series of sensors to provide haptic feedback to the device. The device has great potential for use with prosthesis by providing a more “natural” walking cue and possibly improving the walking of new amputees. As for balance patients, the CASIT researchers are still working out the best way to signal a tilt, with the corresponding poke from a balloon that would best help a person regain balance. They are applying for approval to work with brain injury and stroke patients at the Naval Medical Center, as well as with elderly subjects at UCLA. AUTHOR: Anne-Marie Corley. TITLE: Vest Helps Keep Balance-Disorder Patients from Wobbling. WEBSITE: IEEE Spectrum. REF: http://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/devices/vest-helps-keep-balancedisor...
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