Getting back to the rehabilitation exercise: what did Dr. Constantinescu’s solution ultimately consist of? “You and several users see a virtual environment on the screen with objects in it,” she says. “When you hold the Haptic Wand, you’re virtually holding one of the on-screen objects. As you move the wand, you’re moving the object and building forces and torque. The other users may help or impede your action. That translates into a cooperative action in a given rehabilitation exercise.”
Once you can do programmable force feedback, you can then adjust the outpatient program to enable users with various physical abilities to cooperate on a given exercise. As she puts it, “The resistance can be increased or decreased, the range and speed of the motion can be adjusted, and other changes can be implemented to make the exercise harder or easier for one or another of the participants, and to allow them to contribute equally to the successful completion of the exercise regardless of their different physical capacities. Best of all, we can make this adjustment on the fly, in real time! That’s due to QUARC’s rapid prototyping capability, which I really appreciate.”
“By enlarging the number of users who can perform a therapy exercise together, we will enable the development of on-line communities which support users to persist in the therapy, much like running clinics support their members to continue in their fitness program,” continues Dr. Constantinescu.
Dr. Constantinescu’s research is continuing, and relying in great part on the precision and functionality of QUARC and the Haptic Wand. But the significance up to this point is that people will be able to cooperate on full 6DOF tasks in a virtual haptic environment, not just point interaction tasks. They will now be free to manipulate anything in a virtual environment together with other remote users.
“This opens up an area that I call ‘scalable haptics’. It is based on the Facebook community idea I mentioned earlier and involves several participants who can come and go at will. It also assumes that haptic devices will be easily affordable – perhaps $200 each. Future development should occur in the home rehabilitation area, individually or cooperatively; it could also go in an entirely different direction, such as serious entertainment and games.”