The latest technologies in virtual reality include both external data perception and proprioception. The Teslasuit, featured in this article, addresses the transmediatic, artistic and technological challenges found in the fields of video gaming, cinema, television, education and industry. In the field of medicine, the suit could help reinvent therapeutic approaches in palliative and curative care. In this area, the immersive reality approach designed to help in the treatment of patients already exists, particularly for severe clinical cases. This presentation of the Teslasuit highlights the potential use of virtual reality in medical treatments.
T-Suit DK2: the Teslasuit
The Teslasuit, created by Tesla Studios and launched in January 2016, can establish instant direct connection between the user and an interactive digital medium. It is compatible with the following installation and gaming software: Haptic Player, Haptic Editor, Virtual Meetings apps, VR Digital Paintball Game, and the Software Development Kit (SDK). The T-Suit DK2 can also connect to existing technologies such as Oculus, Google Glass, OSVR, Microsoft HoloLens, and other virtual reality headsets. With this smart suit, communication between a virtual environment and the user provides a real as well as fictitious exchange of information through haptic, kinetic and proprioceptive sensations. The user receives tactile and climatic stimuli while the media reproduces temperature, pressure and body movements in real time. It is controlled by the T-Belt, an on-board minicomputer with Bluetooth connection to 30 haptic feedback modules placed in the jacket, the pants and the gloves, thereby keeping contact with several parts of the body. These modules send climate data to the skin, such as temperature and wind speed, and haptic data in the form of vibrations that replicate a contact with various materials or the impact of an object on the body.
Within an enclosed space, the suit provides information to the media on the user’s movements by visualizing the location with laser sensors for movement, distance and position, and with a preinstalled 3D map of the area. The built-in GPS module can also provide the media with information on the geolocation of the user. In this way, the suit can communicate with a virtual environment or an augmented real environment and enable the user to process and combine understandable verbal, digital and sensory information (texture, temperature, pressure, etc.).
Virtual Reality for Cognitive Rehabilitation
The medical field has been investigating the scientific and clinical potential of virtual reality immersion since the 1990s. Immersive devices are already being used in mental disorder management, relief of physical pain and neurological disorders, and cognitive rehabilitation. Increased access to immersion devices is now inspiring researchers to conduct studies on the creation of virtual environments specifically designed for physical and mental rehabilitation.
Danielle Levac, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiotherapy, Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences at Northeastern University, and Director of the ReGame VR Laboratory, the Rehabilitation Games and Virtual Reality Laboratory, is conducting experimental work on the development of a motor and cognitive learning device that provides total sensory immersion to the patient.
The ReGame VR Lab research focuses on:
- Understanding how virtual reality (VR) systems can be combined with learning principles for cognitive and motor rehabilitation;
- Evaluating the research in motor learning within virtual environments, to determine how different conditions affect task performance results;
- Developing and evaluating the effectiveness of VR systems and video games that promote motor learning and the functional recovery of neurological impairments;
- Creating knowledge translation resources for therapists who wish to integrate VR and gaming systems into their clinical practice.
Stroke patients undergoing physical and cognitive rehabilitation therapy could benefit from the use of equipment like the T-Suit TK2, which would allow them to dive into a virtual experience that emulates the real world. For example, the “shopping” simulation, according to Levac, involves exercises in mobility, spatial and temporal perception, decision-making and organizational skills that put the patient in different levels of difficulty and help in evaluating their recovery. Levac stresses that she is interested in the avatars that convert virtual interactions in real time because they also allow researchers to record, optimally, digital data on the experiment. These technologies will allow therapists to develop VR programs with levels of difficulty adaptable to the changing health status of the patient.