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Is the Visual Walker right for you?

There are approximately 1 million multiple sclerosis patients, 2 million Parkinson’s patients, 20 million brain stroke victims, 20 million cerebral palsy victims and 100 million people suffering from senile gait in the western world (US, Europe, Japan). We have found that seven in ten Parkinson’s patients, six in ten multiple sclerosis patients, five in ten brain stroke patients and four in ten senile gait patients are helped by the device to some degree.

You can find out for yourself if this device can improve your walk by checking if your walk is improved when you use real markings on the ground. You may already know the answer from your past experience, or you may perform a simple test to find out. You may use a tiled floor with highly visible color contrast between the tiles for this purpose. You may also use a colored adhesive tape, a color marker, sticks, or other such objects, to create lines, half a meter apart, perpendicular to the direction of motion. When you walk, try to reach the next line with your foot. Change the distances between the lines until you feel comfortable in your walk. You may ask a family member or a friend to time your walk, or simply observe you as you walk. If you find that your walk pattern has improved, or that you are more comfortable walking with the lines than without them, the Visual Walker is likely to improve your walk. All it does is place virtual lines on the ground in front of you in places where there are no real lines. These virtual lines respond dynamically to your walk just like real ones. With almost no training, these virtual lines will work for you as real markings on the floor.

Video-clips of patients performance

Parkinson’s disease patients performance

Freezing of Gait 1 without device
Freezing of Gait 1 with device, and after
Freezing of Gait 2 without device
Freezing of Gait 2 with device
Freezing of Gait 3 without device
Freezing of Gait 3 with device
Balance Disorder without device
Balance Disorder with device

Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Cerebral palsy patients performance

Patient 1
without device
Patient 1
training with device
Patient 1
without device, after training
Patient 2
without device
Patient 2
training with device
Patient 2
without device, after training
Patient 3
without device
Patient 3
training with device
Patient 3
without device, after training

Scientific Articles

Press Release

Virtual reality helps people with movement disorders walk

Yoram Baram in office

An innovative device, developed by Prof. Yoram Baram of the Technion Faculty of Computer Science, uses virtual reality to improve walking in the elderly, as well as in Parkinson’s patients, stroke victims and, more generally, people with movement disorders – possibly reducing their need for medication or surgery.

The apparatus – a small device strapped to the patient’s clothing – displays a tiled floor through a tiny device attached to the patient’s eyeglasses.  The tile patterns provide continuous, stabilizing visual information which safeguards against stumbling and falling while walking. The patented innovation is the first of its kind to respond to the patient’s motions rather than just providing a constant visual display.

“The image reacts to the patient’s motions just like in real life,” explains Baram. “For example, when the patient stands in place, the virtual floor doesn’t move, but when he begins to walk, the floor starts moving beneath him. When he turns, the image of the floor also turns. Yet all the while the patient feels like he is walking on a steady floor.”

The idea for the project was sparked 12 years ago while Baram was designing a mechanism for NASA to navigate low-flying helicopters around obstacles such as trees, buildings and electrical poles. The concept of the design, which Baram later applied to the medical device, is that the optical images of objects help the observer stabilize himself in space.

“A person who is walking uses visual images to navigate himself so he doesn’t collide,” says Baram, who earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering at Technion, a master’s in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT and a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. “While a healthy person has internal mechanisms, such as a liquid in the inner ear, to help balance himself, older people are deficient in this area. But they can be helped by visual cues like tiles that operate through biofeedback.”

Collaborating with Dr. Judith Aharon Peretz, head of the Department of Cognitive Neurology at Rambam Hospital, Baram tested the device on more than 40 patients, ranging in age from 46 to 82In the study’s first phase, all participants were Parkinson’s patients, but eventually the study also included non-Parkinson’s patients who had suffered strokes and older people who reside in old-age homes in Haifa.

Results were astounding, says Baram, with all patients showing some degree of improvement in their walking. Some experienced drastic improvement similar to the effects of medication or brain surgery, but without the adverse side effects.

The clinical trials indicated that the device may have long-term benefits as well. After using the apparatus for less than 30 minutes only, most patients were able to walk better for a short period of time after they removed the device.

“When I saw these positive results I was amazed, very excited and gratified,” recalls Baram.  “After I published a paper on the subject last year, doctors came forward and said they didn’t believe it would work. Of course I had my doubts too. It was a theory that needed to be proven, and we’ve succeeded in doing that.”

 

Spokesperson Office, Haviva Roger, TL: 04-8235193; Fax: 04-8235195

O. H.

Devices

We have completed the development of the following products, which are now available for order by select users

Audio-Visual Walker

Auditory Walker

Gait Monitor

We also accept contributions to our research fund and offer a limited number of units in return. Please contact Prof. Baram for details