October 28, 2022
Qin “Arthur” Zhu, a professor in UW’s Division of Kinesiology and Health, helps student participant Yunda Huang navigate a virtual reality device for use in telerehabilitation. (Photo UW)
Working in a lab at the University of Wyoming six years ago, undergraduate computer science student Russell Todd, of Baggs, sought to merge a state-of-the-art virtual reality system with a state-of-the-art motion capture system. to understand human-computer interaction.
Todd didn’t know it at the time, but he and his colleagues at the Perception-Action-Cerebral-Executive (PACE) lab would not only help create groundbreaking telerehabilitation technology – which could be used to treat and rehabilitate patients remotely. – but Todd himself will co-found a startup to commercialize this technology in various healthcare sectors across Wyoming.
Beginning in 2017, research support provided by the Wyoming Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), Wyoming IDeA Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), and the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium enabled Todd to work with Qin” Arthur” Zhu, a professor in the UW Division of Kinesiology and Health in the College of Health Sciences, to explore the possibility of integrating an electromagnetic motion capture system with a virtual reality (VR) system. The goal was to render VR interaction with real-time motion tracking capability to study the effects of 3D visual illusion on range motion to be captured in an immersive VR environment.
Their efforts resulted in software receiving a registered copyright entitled “Software Rendering Real-time Motion Tracking Using Body-attached Sensors in Virtual Reality” and a just-granted patent, “Motion Tracking Synchronization in Virtual Reality Spaces “, via the UW Office of Technology Transfer.
Many healthcare providers and their patients in Wyoming and other rural states have found that using telehealth to assess and treat patients can replace or minimize long travels, especially in the winter. The telerehabilitation opportunity arose with the technology created by Todd and his research team. A therapist now has the tools to virtually examine and monitor a patient – interact with the patient in real time while receiving augmented information regarding the quality and function of the patient’s movement.
“It is unusual and remarkable for Russell, an undergraduate computer science student, to step out of his comfort zone and work with me, a kinesiology faculty member, on a transdisciplinary and meaningful research project for human health,” Zhu said. . “I enjoyed working with a student who is also a collaborator, because great ideas often emerge with shared interest and joint effort.”
In 2018, MoVE LLC was founded with Zhu as president and co-founder, with Todd as chief technology officer and co-founder. A year later, Derek Smith, associate professor and director of the division of kinesiology and health, also joined MoVE as CEO.
“Working with Dr. Zhu has been a transformative experience, and I certainly attribute MoVE’s explosive growth to his incredible work ethic,” says Todd. “It’s one thing for me to put several emerging technologies together to create something new, but it took the lightning bolt that is Dr. Zhu to bring this creation to life.”
The journey of creating and implementing their telerehabilitation system – to assess and treat patients with injuries or other barriers to physical movement – was a complex process with support from the university, as well as agencies regional and national funding. A progression of research projects and their funding sources leading to the final product includes:
— 2018: A project titled “Real-time Motion Tracking in 3D Immersive Virtual Reality for Tele-Rehabilitation” was funded by the Wyoming Small Business Development Center.
— 2019: A project entitled “Validating a Novel System with Real-time Interaction and Motion Tracking in Immersive VR for Telerehabilitation” was funded by Wyoming INBRE and a CTR-IN: Developmental Translational Team Grant.
— 2020: A project titled “Developing Real-Time Interaction and Motion Tracking in Immersive Virtual Reality for Telerehabilitation” was funded by the National Institutes on Minorities and Health Disparities of Health through a small business technology transfer grant.
UW student Russell Todd, from Baggs, and Qin “Arthur” Zhu, a professor in the Division of Kinesiology and Health, present their virtual reality project.
— 2020: A project titled “Accelerated Telerehabilitation Infrastructure and Clinical Viability” was funded by the United States Department of Treasury through the Wyoming Health and Bioscience Innovation Hub.
— 2021: Research results from the 2017-2018 projects were published in the Proceedings of the IEEE VR, 2021 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces, titled “Temporal Availability of Ebbinghaus Illusions of Perception and interaction with 3D objects in a contextual virtual environment. ”
While commercial availability of the telerehabilitation system for physical therapists and their patients here in Wyoming is still a long way off, Todd, Zhu and Smith are confident that as advancements continue, application models for this telerehabilitation system will soon be available for public release. . This will be one step closer to providing physical therapists in Wyoming with the advanced tools for rehabilitation treatment they need to provide care during face-to-face clinic visits.
Now, as a doctoral student co-supervised by Amy Banic, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and Zhu in kinesiology and health, Todd continues his research to explore ways to integrate virtual reality with other technologies of sensors so that the technology developed can be widely used by telehealth players. As a result, MoVE LLC is in its second round of fundraising for continued research and development, as well as commercialization of its product.
About the College of Health Sciences
The UW College of Health Sciences educates health and wellness professionals and researchers in a wide variety of disciplines, including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, communication disorders, social work, kinesiology, community and public health and disability studies.
The college also oversees residency and fellowship programs in Casper and Cheyenne, as well as the operation of primary care and speech/hearing clinics in Laramie, Casper and Cheyenne. With more than 1,600 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, the college is dedicated to training Wyoming’s health and wellness workforce and to high-quality research and community engagement, with particular emphasis on rural and border populations.