Assessment of Wheelchair Propulsion Performance in an Immersive Virtual Reality Simulator

Yu-Sheng Yang, Alicia M. Koontz, Yu-Hsuan Hsiao, Cheng-Tang Pan, Jyh-Jong Chang
2021 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
more » ... 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.
doi:10.3390/ijerph18158016 fatcat:wnbqovrh2nblrk5duchw6qewvm