MFA Advanced Product Design | Umeå Institute of Design | 2017 | 10 weeks project | teamwork with Rik Oudenhoven | in collaboration with ABB Ltd
15.000.000 strokes occur worldwide each year. Roughly half of the patients suffer from Hemiplegia, a condition similar to paralysis that inhibits you from using one side of your body. Luckily, Hemiplegia is usually treatable. Typically, one of the first things patients want to relearn is walking. Unfortunately, intensive rehab often stops too early.
Nova, your new set of home therapy smart pants, allows you to efficiently continue your rehabilitation at home. Integrated sensors measure your movements and will vibrate once you put your body weight on your strong side for too long.
The additional app provides detailed feedback, sends you reminders and guides you through your daily set of exercises. This way, your brain gets enough stimulation for a successful recovery.
How might we enable stroke patients to regain a healthy gait through personalized treatment after being discharged from the hospital?
guiding the movement throughout the day
Indicating the correct movement
through integrated pulling cables
Integrated zippers and straps at the top of the pants and both legs guarantee that you can put on nova with one hand only. Yet they’ll be tight enough to stay in place.
Wearable underneath normal pants
You can wear your nova smart pants underneath normal pants which makes them extremely everyday-life-friendly.
Similar gait sensors are already used on the sport market and fully working. Only the matematical algorithms need to be adapted to the new aim.
Motor- and battery unit
Our integrated battery and efficient motor will get you through the whole day. All electronic components can easily be removed from the pants for charging. Hereby, the pants are also washable! By owning more than one set of pants (but only one set of electronic components), you can simply plug the components into your second pair and wash the first one.
Feedback and reminders enhance your rehab
Our app provides statistics on your weight distribution, exercises and steps.
Since stroke patients need to train frequently for a few minutes only, it’s easy to forget a scheduled exercise. Therefore, our app sends you reminders, tracks your movement and gives you immediate feedback. You can also watch a video on how to do the exercise correctly in order to avoid confusion and mistakes.
Moreover, the app allows you to contact your therapists and doctors for quick adjustments to your treatment and to manage appointments.
how to use the app
(currently under construction)
Allowing the therapist to keep track of the therapy
According to our research, the therapists are mainly interested in facts, e.g. when and how long the patient move or when they did their exercises. Hence, the physiotherapist’s app provides more in depth statistics than the patient’s and resembles a management tool.
Research visit at Neurorehab Sävar in Sweden
Specialized treatments weeks or months after being discharged from the hospital
Doing online research, we decided to explore how robotics could help stroke patients to overcome hemiplegia, a condition where half of your body is in a similar state to paralysis. Luckily, hemiplegia is often curable. To find out more, we went to the Neurorehabcenter in Sävar that offers specialized treatments for people that have had a stroke weeks or months before they enter the center.
Research visit at Umeå University Hospital in Sweden
We wanted to find out more about the beginning of the treatment process and hence went to the Umeå University Hospital that provides both immediate care and home visits. The therapists showed us exercises stroke patients usually need to do as well as their equipment. We found out that the improvements decrease tremendously once patients leave the hopsital. Often, that is already after a couple of days.
Stroke rehab process in Umeå, Sweden
Why home therapy is not efficient
Testing conductive fabrics
Exploring smart textiles
During the ideation we figured out that we would like to develop a concept that is accessible 24/7 and does not require much space. Therefore, we assumed that our result will most likely be wearable. Hence, we started experimenting with conductive threads. I crocheted pressure sensors that actually worked.
Looking at our ideation sketches, the one that fullfilled most of our criterias (accessibility, size, price, empowering patients) was having rubber bands inside the joints that slightly contract and hereby guide you to move correctly. At this point we did not know about the existance of sensors that can track your movement so precisely, which is why we integrated textile pressure sensors underneath the feet.
On an existing pair of sport pants, we marked where the rubber bands would have to be positioned in order to indicate the right movement and be supplied with power and information.
We did not only want to indicate the correct movement, but also weight shifting. Accordingly, we needed another opportunity to guide the user. We tested how people react to vibrations on their legs by taping phones around their ankles. It turned out that people tend to shift to the side where there is no vibration.
We built a prototype to test if moving the legs through rubber bands or integrated cables actually works. It turned out that we could move the leg up completely by pulling an integrated cable. In real life, the cables would not have to move the whole leg, but only indicate the movement and hence would not require as much power.
Feedback from stakeholders
We wanted to hear the opinion of the therapists that we had visited during our research. They were positively surprised by our concepts.
At this time, we already had the idea for the app that guides the users through their day and exercises. The therapists mentioned that is would be very benefitial for them to get statistical information of the patient's activity and what time they do their exercises. We integrated that funtion into our final app concept.
Soft & hard components
After our concept was tweaked according to the therapists' feedback, we built a final model. While Rik was CNC-milling and sanding the hard components, I was constructing and sewing the fabric parts of the pants.
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