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A Vibrotactile Feedback Device for Seated Balance Assessment and Training

Published: January 20th, 2019



1Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Alberta, 2Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta, 3Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, Alberta Health Services

A sitting platform has been developed and assembled that passively destabilizes sitting posture in humans. During the user's stabilizing task, an inertial measurement unit records the device's motion, and vibrating elements deliver performance-based feedback to the seat. The portable, versatile device may be used in rehabilitation, assessment, and training paradigms.

Postural perturbations, motion tracking, and sensory feedback are modern techniques used to challenge, assess, and train upright sitting, respectively. The goal of the developed protocol is to construct and operate a sitting platform that can be passively destabilized while an inertial measurement unit quantifies its motion and vibrating elements deliver tactile feedback to the user. Interchangeable seat attachments alter the stability level of the device to safely challenge sitting balance. A built-in microcontroller allows fine-tuning of the feedback parameters to augment sensory function. Posturographic measures, typical of balance assessment protocols, summarize the motion signals acquired during timed balance trials. No dynamic sitting protocol to date provides variable challenge, quantification, and sensory feedback free of laboratory constraints. Our results demonstrate that non-disabled users of the device exhibit significant changes in posturographic measures when balance difficulty is altered or vibrational feedback provided. The portable, versatile device has potential applications in rehabilitation (following skeletal, muscular, or neurological injury), training (for sports or spatial awareness), entertainment (via virtual or augmented reality), and research (of sitting-related disorders).

Upright sitting is a prerequisite for other human sensorimotor functions, including skilled movements (e.g., typing) and perturbed balance tasks (e.g., riding on a train). To rehabilitate and improve sitting and related functions, modern balance training techniques are used: unstable surfaces perturb sitting1,2 and motion tracking quantifies balance proficiency3,4. Balance training outcomes improve when vibration is delivered to the body using patterns that match performance5. Such sensory feedback is evidently....

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All methods described here have been approved by the Health Research Ethics Board of the University of Alberta.

1. Construction and Assembly of Structural Components

  1. Construct an attachment interface for interchangeable hemispherical bases: weld a base nut to a steel weld plate. 
  2. Use a computer numerical controlled (CNC) milling machine to construct a cylindrical chassis, lid, and base from polyethylene as shown in Figure 1. Bolt the bas.......

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Table 2 shows, for each experimental condition, the posturographic measures derived from observations of the AP and ML support surface tilts, averaged over 144 balance trials performed by 12 participants (2 x 2 x 3 trials per participant).

Effect of Changing the Balance Condition: The base condition was chosen to be dependent on the eye condition (i.e., when the eyes were closed, the ba.......

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Methods for constructing a portable, instrumented, sitting device are presented. The device is portable and durable, building on previous studies of wobble chairs2,4 and vibrational feedback5,6,7 to make the benefits of these tools more powerful and accessible. Follow the assembly protocol in reverse to prepare the device for transportation or storage. The difficulty of .......

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The authors acknowledge the design efforts of the undergraduate students Animesh Singh Kumawat, Kshitij Agarwal, Quinn Boser, Benjamin Cheung, Caroline Collins, Sarah Lojczyc, Derek Schlenker, Katherine Schoepp, and Arthur Zielinski. This study was partially funded through a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (RGPIN-2014-04666).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Chassis McMaster-Carr 8657K421 Moisture-Resistant LDPE Polyethylene Sheet 1-1/2" Thick, 24" X 24"
Lid McMaster-Carr 8657K414 Moisture-Resistant LDPE Polyethylene Sheet 1/4" Thick, 24" X 24"
Base McMaster-Carr 8657K414 Moisture-Resistant LDPE Polyethylene Sheet 1/4" Thick, 24" X 24"
Grip-Tape McMaster-Carr 6243T471 Nonabrasive Antislip Tape, Textured, 6" Wide Strip, 2' Long, Black
Base Nut McMaster-Carr 90596A039 Steel Round-Base Weld Nut, 5/8"-11 Thread Size
Weld Plate McMaster-Carr 1388K142 Low-Carbon Steel Sheet 1/16" Thick, 3" X 3", Ground Finish
Threaded Rod McMaster-Carr 90322A170 3" 5/16"-18 Medium-Strength Alloy Steel Threaded Stud
Sleeve McMaster-Carr 8745K19 Chemical-Resistant PVC (Type I) Rod 1-1/4" Diameter
Square Flange McMaster-Carr 8910K395 Low Carbon Steel Bar, 1/8" Thick, 1" Wide
Hitch McMaster-Carr 4931T123 Bolt-Together Framing Heavy-Duty Steel, 1-1/2" Square
Curved Base McMaster-Carr 8745K48 PVC Rod, 6" Diameter
Hitch Insert McMaster-Carr 6535K313 Bolt-Together Framing Heavy-Duty Steel, 1" Square
Extrusion McMaster-Carr 6545K7 1045 Cold Drawn Steel Square Bar Stock, 1' X 1" Wide, Unpolished
Clamp Vlier TH103A Adjustable Torque Knob
Footrest McMaster-Carr 6582K431 4130 Steel Tubing, 1" X 1" Wide, 0.065" Wall Thickness, Unpolished Mill Finish
Counterwieght McMaster-Carr 8910K67 Low-Carbon Steel Rectangular Bar 1-1/8" Thick, 4" Width
Clevis Pin McMaster-Carr 97245A616 Zinc-Plated Steel Clevis Pin with Hairpin Cotter Pin, 3/16" Diameter, 1-9/16" Usable Length
Microprocessor Arduino MEGA 2560 Microcontroller board with 54 digital I/O pins and USB connection
Inertial Measurement Unit x-io Technologies Ltd. x-IMU Inertial Measurement Unit and Attitude Heading Reference System with enclosure
Vibrating Tactor Precision Microdrives DEV-11008 Lilypad Vibe Board, available from SparkFun Electronics

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