Last week’s Consumer Electronics Show featured cutting-edge technology for home, work, health, entertainment, transportation, and so much more. Amid the concept cars and homes of the future was technology that is already changing lives. Technologies like virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, robotics, smart homes, wearables, and brain computer interfaces all show promise to support the full participation of people with disabilities in their communities. Here is a quick look at some recent NIDILRR-funded research utilizing these emerging technologies:
Four current projects focus on virtual reality or VR. These include studies using VR to improve job reentry for adults with traumatic brain injuries and for spatial retraining to improve neglect in stroke survivors, using VR to help older adults with disabilities learn to use smart home technologies, and building in accessibility in VR technologies. Completed projects included using simulated audio for orientation and mobility training for blind adults, using VR for social information processing, and using VR for problem solving skill training, among others. Explore almost 25 years of virtual reality research and development projects.
Three current projects examine the use of autonomous vehicle technologies. These include field-initiated projects on driving performance of people with Parkinson’s who use these technologies and ways to optimize accessible public transportation, as well as a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) focused on physical access and transportation. Explore current autonomous vehicle research and development.
Seven current projects focus on some aspect of robotics to support people with disabilities. These include three RERCs on robotics: wearable robotics for independent living, robotics for rehabilitation, and robotics for home-based assessment and treatment for individuals with neurologic injury. Other projects include robotic assistive arms for assistance with activities of daily living, robotic propulsion for manual wheelchairs, and robotic gait training. Explore more than 20 years of research and development in robotics for rehabilitation and independent living.
Brain Computer Interfaces
One project is currently investigating the use of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) to operate commercial augmentative and alternative communication systems. Such systems would give people with conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and stroke the ability to communicate. Previous research and development in this area looked at the use of BCI as a job platform for individuals with severe movement disorders and to operate assistive technology. Explore recent research in BCIs.
These are just a few examples of cutting-edge research and development taking place at universities, rehabilitation hospitals, and large and small businesses and organizations across the NIDILRR grantee community. We are very excited to see what comes next!