An Athlone-based PhD candidate is using augmented reality (AR ) to help cure people of walking abnormalities which, if left untreated, can lead to “wear and tear” arthritis and serious injuries.
Thiago Braga Rodrigues, a Brazilian biomedical engineer studying at Athlone Institute of Technology, is flipping traditional rehabilitation therapy on its head with an innovative technology-led approach that empowers patients.
“Traditionally, patients rely solely on guided feedback which is given in a clinical setting and requires the presence of an expert to inform the rehabilitation or re-training. It also necessitates a patient travel many times to and from a clinic,” he explained.
As an alternative, Mr Braga Rodrigues is using AR “smart” glasses to help patients correct their walking abnormalities. His goal is to help patients better understand and react to feedback so that they can improve their gait in the comfort of their own home.
AR is an immersive mixed-reality technology, synonymous with apps like Instagram and Snapchat, that superimposes static and moving images on a real-world environment. According to the Athlone Institute of Technology researcher, the technology’s potential is only starting to be explored.
“The potential of AR as a portable, wearable and visual piece of technology is under-researched and certainly worth investigating further,” he said. “It has a wide range of applications and is capable of augmenting human performance in a variety of ways.”
Now in the final “write-up” phase of his research, Mr Braga Rodrigues has just had his paper on the use of immersive mixed reality technology in correcting walk abnormalities accepted to one of the world’s leading scientific journals. The PhD candidate calls its inclusion in the PLOS One publication his “greatest achievement” to date.
According to Dr Niall Murray, a PhD supervisor and researcher in the field of immersive technologies, this is “a significant milestone” for Mr Braga Rodrigues as he enters the final stages of his postgraduate studies.
“Having a paper accepted to a multidisciplinary journal like PLOS One with its impact factor and H5 index is a great achievement,” he said. “The fact that PLOS One is an open access journal also means that his research will be easily accessible to the research community and general public.”
Pioneering in its approach, the academic journal makes papers available to the public for free immediately on publication. This open access model has been lauded for breaking down barriers to knowledge dissemination and ensuring equal access to information.
“The open access model is important as it makes research available to the scientific community in a timely, open manner,” Mr Braga Rodrigues said. “I am delighted to have my first Quality of Experience (QoE ) paper published in PLOS One.”
The PhD candidate, whose research is funded by the Irish Research Council of Ireland, came to Athlone Institute of Technology from Harvard Medical School, USA, where he studied biomechanics and bioinformatics.
“The PhD structure and the modules I undertook throughout the duration of my studies have really helped me further my academic career and enhance my skillset,” Mr Braga Rodrigues said.
“I’m extremely grateful to my supervisors, Dr Niall Murray (AIT ), Dr Ciarán Ó Catháin (AIT ) and Prof. Noel O’Connor (DCU ), for their unending support, guidance and expertise.”
Soon to be graduating with his doctorate, Mr Braga Rodrigues has taken up a post as a lecturer within the Faculty of Engineering and Informatics at Athlone Institute of Technology.
Thiago Braga Rodrigues’ paper, entitled ‘A Quality of Experience assessment of haptic and augmented reality feedback modalities in a gait analysis system’, is now available to the public.
For more information on AIT’s postgraduate programmes, visit www.ait.ie