Augmented Reality for Parkinson’s: An Assistive Tool Based on Visual Cues

Presenter: Justin Hynes-Bruell; Shuangjun Liu

Research Category: Engineering and Technology
Student Type: Undergraduate
PI: Sarah Ostadabbas
Award Winner Category: Engineering and Technology

Parkinson’s disease (PD), with a prevalence of about 1% in people over the age of 60, usually presents itself with slowing of movement and tremors. PD is also strongly associated with problems of gait which predispose to falls and freezing of gait (FOG). It has been shown that one reason for FOG is difficulty with perceiving surroundings and misinterpreting cues received from the environment. One way to overcome this problem is to augment the cues that a patient with PD receives from her surroundings. Rather than providing physical cues which are also visible by others and usually broadcast disabilities, this research proposes to provide virtual cues to the patient in realtime, generated in a wearable Augmented Reality (AR) environment. To investigate the effectiveness of the AR cues generated using Microsoft Hololens AR glasses, we will compare gait variables and functional mobility of PD patients with FOG during walking with and without receiving our AR visual cues. As a proof of concept study, 15 PD patients who meet our inclusion and exclusion criteria will be recruited at Tufts Medical Center to achieve the following specific aims: (1) develop apps of multiple visual spatial cues in Microsoft Hololens AR glass environment, and (2) conduct a multi-scenario experimental study to verify the effectiveness of AR visual spatial cues in FOG symptoms improvement. We anticipate that the proposed assistive tool will enhance the quality of life of patients with PD by helping them to overcome FOG, which otherwise could hinder their everyday physical activities.