Using augmented reality technology for balance training in the elderly. A feasibility pilot study
Background: Impaired balance leading to falls is common in the elderly, and there is strong evidence that balance training reduces falls and increases independence. Reduced resources in health care will result in fewer people getting help with rehabilitation training. In this regard, the new technology augmented reality (AR) could be helpful. With AR, the elderly can receive help with instructions and get feedback on their progression in balance training. The purpose of this pilot study was to
... pilot study was to examine the feasibility of using AR-based visual-interactive tools in balance training of the elderly. Methods: Seven elderly participants (66-88 years old) with impaired balance trained under supervision of a physiotherapist twice a week for six weeks using AR-based visual-interactive guidance, which was facilitated through a Microsoft HoloLens holographic display. Afterwards, participants and physiotherapists were interviewed about the new technology and their experience of the training. Also, fear of falling and balance ability were measured before and after training. Results: Five participants experienced the new technology as positive in terms of increased motivation and feedback. Experiences were mixed regarding the physical and technical aspects of the HoloLens and the design of the HoloLens application. Participants also described issues that needed to be further improved, for example, the training program was difficult and monotonous. Further, the HoloLens hardware was felt to be heavy, the application's menu was difficult to control with different hand manoeuvres, and the calibration took a long time. Suggestions for improvements were described. Results of the balance tests and self-assessment instruments indicated no improvements in balance performance after AR training. Conclusions: The study showed that training with the new technology is, to some extent, feasible for the elderly, but needs further development. Also, the technology seemed to stimulate increased motivation, which is a prerequisite for adherence to training. However, the new technology and training requires further development and testing in a larger context.