Virtual Reality (VR) Rehabilitation Protocols for Children
Virtual reality has been an emerging tech over the past few years, and amid the global pandemic, every aspect of our lives revolved around the virtual world. As the pandemic started to lift, virtual meetings and schoolings have become more of strategic convenience.
In 2016, an EPFL graduate Jenifer Miehlbradt demonstrated a VR setup of flying drones using their torso, allowing the people to directly via a series of hurdles in a virtual landscape. Something caught her attention; adults had no issues leveraging the torso movement to pilot the drones, whereas children couldn't do it. This experiment might be unveiling something related to a child's nervous system development.
Prediction of One-directional Transition
Adults, when disconnecting their head movements from their torso, showed no problem. For kids, torso and head movement coordination are in development, and EPFL predicts a one-directional transition from firm control to decoupling the coordination system.
Miehlbradt said the prototype states that children, when to start to walk around 1 year, will control their upper body till 6-7 years and after they learn to control their joints independently but adapt to the rigid strategy in challenging situations. The experiment noted that adults use the rigid strategy, and children use their head and body movement separately when leveraging the tech.
Experiments on Kids
The kids had to play 2 games wearing the VR headset to better understand their ability to control. In the pilot game, the child has to align their head or torso with a presented line at different orientations to measure coordination and alignment error.
The experiment revealed that kids could quickly excel in the head movement, but align their torso significantly younger children strived to compensate the difference using their head.
The 2nd game is a flight scenario in a virtual world, where the child will be seated on a flying eagle's back and had to collect golden coins arranged along the flying path. The motion of the bird is either controlled using the torso or head.
Steering the eagle's head trajectory was 80% near the target coins compared to the torso. The scientists believe that torso control needs the user to separate vision and focus on head-torso coordination. Young kids often rely on visual input than the body posture sensation.
Miehlbradt said, "The results show that immersive VR can disrupt the children's default coordination strategy, reweighting the various sensory inputs - vision, proprioception, and vestibular inputs -- in favor of vision."
Virtual reality has been gaining in popularity in flight simulators, games, and surgeries. This emerging tech can now be used for therapeutic applications like neurorehabilitation and rehabilitation or phobias treatment. The diverse situation that can be developed and its animated features make the tech interesting for kids. One thing to note is that this immersive tech might disrupt the child's default coordination strategy.