Virtual Reality Treadmill for the Wheelchair-bound on the Anvil

by Rajashri on Sep 12 2008 3:36 PM

University of Texas alumnus and students are developing 'TrekEase', an arcade driving game of sorts that may help the wheelchair bound take to exercise as a fun activity.

University of Texas at Austin alumnus, Chris Stanford (MSEE '91), and Electrical and Computer Engineering undergraduates are working on testing their ideas for a virtual reality treadmill for the disabled.

"Not many people realize the special health risks faced by wheelchair users. Everything is more difficult, including eating right and getting enough exercise. Because of this, the incidence of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is several times the rate of the general population," said Stanford who has been confined to a wheelchair since 1988.

Stanford's solution, called TrekEase, is like an arcade driving game, in which users back a manual wheelchair into a frame, engage the flywheel for resistance, and start the driving software.

"When Chris approached me last year about using [TrekEase] as one of our senior design projects. I was enthusiastic. It's an interesting engineering challenge. He came in with a mechanical system that had already been vetted for safety. The students added software and sensors that make the experience interactive," said UT-ECE professor Jon Valvano.

The device allows the users to control speed and direction.

Now, a new group of students is continuing the project this semester. They plan to enhance the existing design so the system detects tilt making flight simulation possible and to work on the packaging so it will be affordable and easily reproducible.

"There is no way I could've done this by myself. I don't have the skill set. The students are amazing. They step up to every challenge," said Stanford.