Electronic Tactile Vest Aids Movement in Rehab Patients

Researchers at UCLA’s Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology (CASIT) are developing a wearable, balancing vest that uses tactile sensors to correct the movement of rehabilitation patients whose sense of balance has fallen to injury or disease.

Accelerometers on the shoulders detect body rotation and tilt, while the vest-based control system provides almost instantaneous feedback of incorrect leaning. Pneumatic actuators adjust the inflation of various 2.5cm silicone balloons embedded in the vest, applying specific pressures onto the wearer to correct movement.

From IEEE Spectrum:

“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.”Other types of actuators, based on liquids or servos, says Martin Culjat, lead researcher on the project, don’t react in 60 milliseconds, which is how fast they would need to operate to provide real-time feedback for patients to stay upright. Still other actuators, which send vibrational signals to various parts of the body, are more common than pneumatic balloons, but because the skin can become accustomed to vibrotactile cues, a person’s perception of those signals can decrease over time, Culjat says.

This looks like an interesting development for providing feedback during balance rehabilitation.