NSU PT Explores Wearable Device Technology

NSU Physical Therapy explores wearable device technologyThe Physical Therapy department of NSU recently submitted two research grant requests, both of which were specifically designed to utilize Google Glass - Google’s new wearable technology. The respective research will focus on the areas of student-patient interaction/clinical visits, fall prevention techniques, and balance training.

The larger of the two grants, spearheaded by Dr. Alicia Fernandez-Fernandez, is the prestigious Google Research Award. The Google Research Award, established in 2005, was created by Google to support cutting-edge research in Computer Science, Engineering, and related fields. In order to qualify for such an award, NSU PT’s Technology Committee engaged in collaboration efforts with Glassic LLC, a wearable technology developmental firm in California to develop custom Glass software needed to conduct its research. Other collaborators include Ithaca College and Incites consulting firm.  Notification is scheduled for August 2014.

Under the category of human-computer interaction, the NSU’s PT department technology committee hopes to use Google Glass and its benefits to tackle falling among aging adults, whereby falls are a major public health problem in the United States, with enormous human and monetary cost. The goal of the research is to determine if Glass can provide a quick, reliable way to (1) assess people who are at risk for falls, (2) be used to deliver balance training materials, (3) monitor safety and progress during the training period, and (4) result in a reduced number of falls and improved balance skills during functional activities. In order to explore these capabilities, the researchers will compare a Google Glass-based assessment/training program to a conventional program, for the outcomes of improving balance skills during functional activities and reducing fall frequency.

The second grant, submitted to the NSU President’s Faculty Research and Development Grant program, addresses how technology provides an opportunity to utilize the Medical Communication Behavior System (MCBS) tool to assess student interpersonal skills without requiring the observer to attend to multiple tasks. More so, wearable computer devices will provide the opportunity to record student-patient encounters from a patient's perspective, in contrast to conventional video recording methods which represent the point of view of an outside observer. As such, the ability to record a student-patient encounter from a patient's perspective may provide a unique way for the student to see themselves performing a task and how they were perceived by the patient. Dr. Terry Morrow and Jonathon May from Student Affairs will be participating in the student assessment component of this grant, if it is awarded.

Using wearable computers in the medical industry in places such as surgery and medical robotics is already a proven benefit. If received, these two research projects would also put physical therapy and academia on the wearable device technology map.