Assessment of Wheelchair Propulsion Performance in an Immersive Virtual Reality Simulator
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Maneuvering a wheelchair is an important necessity for the everyday life and social activities of people with a range of physical disabilities. However, in real life, wheelchair users face several common challenges: articulate steering, spatial relationships, and negotiating obstacles. Therefore, our research group has developed a head-mounted display (HMD)-based intuitive virtual reality (VR) stimulator for wheelchair propulsion. The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility and
... cacy of this VR stimulator for wheelchair propulsion performance. Twenty manual wheelchair users (16 men and 4 women) with spinal cord injuries ranging from T8 to L2 participated in this study. The differences in wheelchair propulsion kinematics between immersive and non-immersive VR environments were assessed using a 3D motion analysis system. Subjective data of the HMD-based intuitive VR stimulator were collected with a Presence Questionnaire and individual semi-structured interview at the end of the trial. Results indicated that propulsion performance was very similar in terms of start angle (p = 0.34), end angle (p = 0.46), stroke angle (p = 0.76), and shoulder movement (p = 0.66) between immersive and non-immersive VR environments. In the VR episode featuring an uphill journey, an increase in propulsion speed (p < 0.01) and cadence (p < 0.01) were found, as well as a greater trunk forward inclination (p = 0.01). Qualitative interviews showed that this VR simulator made an attractive, novel impression and therefore demonstrated the potential as a tool for stimulating training motivation. This HMD-based intuitive VR stimulator can be an effective resource to enhance wheelchair maneuverability experiences.