A life as an amputee can be a difficult lifestyle to adjust to, and having to learn how to use a prosthetic limb can sometimes make the whole situation even more frustrating. OttoBock and researchers from Interactive Media Systems Group at the Vienna University of Technology have teamed up to help amputees cope with learning how to use prosthetic limbs. They have used virtual reality to create a training environment they call Prosthesis Trainer.
Prosthesis trainer combines three high tech systems to create their virtual reality training environment. ARTiFICe, an augmented reality framework, builds on the Unity 3 game engine and allows rapid prototyping to create virtual reality applications. Unity 3, the video game engine, is a powerful engine that is easy to work with, and it is a robust development tool for anyone creating a type of game project. Iotracker, is the motion-capturing system at work in the Prosthesis Trainer. Together with electromyographic (EMG) sensors, they collect data which is sent to the ARTiFICe. The EMG sensors are placed in the connecting piece of the prosthesis, which controls the prosthetic limb. If the signals can become stronger and better through the training, controlling a prosthetic limb will become better controlled in everyday life.
The training involves wearing a VR headset and motion sensors to practice moving and manipulating differently shaped objects in a virtual environment. In the training the force, which is applied to picking up and moving objects, is a key focus to learning. If an object is grasped with too much force in the training, the object will explode. As of now their prototype is still in early development stages. They plan to integrate more complex environments and scenarios for users to train in. Additionally, they are hoping their next round of tests will involve people learning to use prosthetic limbs. The tests will be done in cooperation with Vienna General Hospital and closely supervised by medical experts.