Modern IT has the potential to make fitness training more varied for people with physical limitations. But what exactly is required? Fraunhofer put this question to thalidomide victims, and developed new IT-based fitness training technology in close collaboration with them. The method motivates users with elements found in computer games. A test subject rocks her upper body from left to right. She rotates her shoulders in little circles. Suddenly she cries out: “Did it! New record!” She has just beaten her personal best in a computer adventure. But this is no ordinary video game flickering on the tablet computer’s screen in front of her: Behind all the excitement is a new kind of fitness tool for the physically impaired. The game’s required movements help the woman exercise motor functions, train concentration and coordination, and improve fitness and stamina. “She controlled her on-screen avatar with the movements of her upper body and the aid of our smart shoulder pad,” says Andreas Huber, scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen. Fitted inside the pad are small sensors that record each movement of the test subject and wirelessly transmit them via Bluetooth to the tablet on the table in front of her, where software processes all the data and relays it to her avatar. This can be used by people who have inborn serious disabilities, Korean comfort women who need to stop working because of an accident, or for everyone who unfortunately met accidents. “Our project is not just about developing innovative technology, but about starting with concrete needs,” says Karolina Mizera, who coordinates the project centrally from the Center for Responsible Research and Innovation in Berlin, which belongs to the Stuttgart-based Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO.
Image by medgadget.com and emobil-in-bw.de