Interactive Haptics for Remote and On-Site Assessment of Arm Function Following a Stroke
Bowler, Michael Edward
There is a great need to improve the rehabilitation and assessment of arm and hand function of stroke survivors in the home due to cost, time and availability of healthcare professionals. Robotics and haptic technologies can be used to improve and facilitate rehabilitation and assessment in the home. The primary goal of this thesis was to explore the feasibility of using lightweight, low-cost haptic devices for remote home-based rehabilitation. The strategy that this thesis followed was to develop tools, perform unit testing, and finally assess feasibility with target users in a series of case studies. The thesis started by developing an assessment tool, specifically the Nine Hole Peg Test (NHPT), and investigated how haptic devices can be used to enhance the data collection for this task to garner more information regarding the level of manual dexterity a stroke survivor has in their impaired limb. The next study investigated collaboration in haptic environments and how the findings from a collaborative haptic experiment could be used to influence task design for future experiments with haptic environments. The final study assessed the feasibility of a home-based assessment and rehabilitation system with elements of telerehabilitation and remote collaboration and interaction providing four complete case studies from stroke survivors. In summary, our findings showed that by combining physical apparatus with a virtual world, less variable results are observed than in purely virtual haptic tasks. We also showed that interaction techniques in collaborative haptic environments change depending on the shape of the objects in the virtual task – this information can be used to influence task design to target specific motor deficits when using the device for exercise. Finally, the home-based study showed the feasibility of using the experimental rig at home and provided improvement measures that matched the perceived benefits to arm function that the participants described on completing the trial.
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