Virtual reality treadmill designed for wheelchair-bound

September 11th, 2008 - 3:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 11 (IANS) University of Texas alumnus Chris Stanford and colleagues are working on a virtual reality treadmill to help wheelchair users exercise with fun.The treadmill, with the help of a Stanford’s solution, called TrekEase, approximates an arcade driving game. Users back a manual wheelchair into a frame, engage the flywheel for resistance, and start the driving software.

“Not many people realise,” said Stanford, himself bound to a wheelchair since 1988, “the special health risks faced by wheelchair users.”

“Everything is more difficult, including eating right and getting enough exercise. Because of this, the incidence of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is several times the rate of the general population.”

“When Chris approached me last year about using TrekEase as one of our senior design projects,” informed Texas professor Jon Valvano “I was enthusiastic. It’s an interesting engineering challenge.”

“He came in with a mechanical system that had already been vetted for safety. The students added software and sensors that make the experience interactive,” added Valvano.

Users can control speed and direction. A new group of students is continuing the project this semester. They plan to enhance the existing design so the system detects tilt making flight simulation possible and to work on the packaging so it will be affordable and easily reproducible.

“There is no way I could’ve done this by myself. I don’t have the skill set,” says Stanford. “The students are amazing. They step up to every challenge.”

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