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An avatar for rehabilitation

by david.nunes

Barcelona, July XX 2010. Barcelona Digital, technology centre specialized in R&D&I in ICT, and member of TECNIO -the only network that boosts technology transfer and business innovation in Catalonia-, has initiated a R&D European project that will make possible the rehabilitation of patients using virtual reality and being remotely monitored by clinicians.

The chronic patients, disabled and old people have to carry out exercises regularly to keep healthy, as well as other patients with injures have to follow a rehabilitation program to recover. But the health systems are often too saturated and cannot provide the monitoring needed by the patients.

With the aim of providing the necessary assistance, the R&D project FitRehab will develop a platform to carry out physical exercise under planning and remote supervision of an expert. The platform will consist of two integrated workstations. The first will be used in hospitals by the medical staff, to program personalized exercises to each patient. The second will be used by the patients, at home, to carry out the exercises with a virtual trainer. The patient will be monitored by means of sensors placed in a t-shirt and will see themselves represented by an avatar, who will reproduce their movements in the virtual reality environment. Thus, as in a video game, the patient will perform the exercises prescribed by the doctor. The sensorized shirt will be developed by the technology partners of the project and delivered to the health centres for testing.

Besides the movement sensors, the patient’s t-shirt will have integrated biological sensors to monitor their physiological variables, such as heart rate, temperature and respiration. The information collected by all the sensors will be sent to the hospital workstation, where medical staff will analyze it and will modify the program if needed. Thus, the patient condition always will be under medical control and supervision.

In short, the platform will improve the quality of life of patients and reduce relapses. In addition, health systems will be able to assist more people without increasing costs.

The project has a budget of over 460.000€, partially funded by the European Union, within the Innovation for Welfare program.

The project coordinator is the Università Statale di Milano (Italy), and the partners are the technological centres Barcelona Digital and CETEMMSA, both from Catalonia (Spain), the Stichting De Wever (Netherlands), the Viljandi Hospital Foundation (Estonia), the Azienda Sanitaria Locale de la Provincia de Brescia (Italy), the company Ab.Acus (Italy), and the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences (Austria).

Regarding the participation of Barcelona Digital, the centre will develop the station the therapists will use to manage the program of exercises, and the software that will process and analyze in real time the sensors data and, subsequently, send them to the virtual environment for their representation.

About Barcelona Digital Technology Centre

Barcelona Digital is the technology centre for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Catalonia.  Our mission is to contribute to the growth of the ICT sector and the development of the Information Society.  Our areas of specialization are security, mobility and health which, due to their cross-cutting nature, are applied in many different sectors, such as services, food and agriculture, hospitals, education or transport.

Barcelona Digital forms part of the TECNIO network that brings together the main expert agents in applied research and technological transfer of Catalonia. Currently TECNIO is made up of more than 100 technology centres, technology diffusion centres and university groups, that promote the competitiveness and the Catalan excellence in both R&D and company environments


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