News Release: It’s appropriate that during Parkinson’s Awareness Month, a team of Rice University seniors will show how augmented reality may help patients with the disease.
That’s the official announcement shared with MMW this week, as we learned that six Rice engineering students have designed an iPhone app to help patients overcome a symptom known as “freezing,” in which the legs temporarily refuse to follow the brain’s command to lift and move forward.
For many of these patients, researchers have found that visual, audio or vibratory cues can help them overcome freezing. The Rice app may be the most elegant and comprehensive way to date to provide those cues, according to the students.
The app takes advantage of new programming tools that allow for the incorporation of augmented reality. In this case, the user can point the phone at the floor or sidewalk and trigger it to place the image of a block, circle or other object where his or her foot should land. That visual cue is often enough to allow patients to initiate their gait.
According to a provided release, the app can also provide audio or sensory cues through the phone’s sound and vibration capabilities. It should be adaptable to Android phones as well, according to the students.
“This is for patients who, in their day-to-day lives, experience freezing episodes,” said team member Gaby Perez. “There are a couple of devices on the market to help them, but none of them incorporate all three kinds of cues.”
To learn more about the team and their efforts, click here.