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By: Dean Friedman
InVideo Systems, Inc.
7 Corporate Dr.
Peekskill, NY 10566
The following is a discussion of the potential uses for InVideo - an unencumbered, peripheral-free, 2nd person VR system - as a diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative tool for persons with both psychological and physiological disabilities.
A virtual reality (VR) experience may be described as one in which a collection of microprocessor-based multimedia tools are used to create the illusion of an alternate reality. In essence, VR employs computers to trick our senses, to fool us into thinking we are somewhere we are not. VR devices accomplish this slight-of-hand by using an array of multimedia tools - TV monitors, audio speakers - and in some instances motion control mechanisms, to engage our various senses. In general, the more senses engaged, the more compelling the VR experience.
The following is a discussion of InVideo, a form of unencumbered VR, which will be described in relation to the more popular and familiar HMD (head mounted display or helmet-based) VR, in order to better explain and highlight some of the significant advantages and unique potential uses of InVideo as an aid for the disabled.
HMD's / HELMET-BASED VR
The type of VR most familiar to the public and media is referred to as helmet-based or HMD (Head Mounted Display). HMD's employ miniature LCD TV's, mounted inside a football helmet type head mounted device, for video display, which provides for an almost fully immersive 3D (stereoscopic) visual experience. The use of mechanical, magnetic or infrared tracking devices, which sense the position and orientation of the HMD, enable the software to generate a rotating 360 degree virtual world which contributes to the user's sense of immersion.
HMD - ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES
Immersion, 360 degree point of view and 3D stereoscopy are some of the advantages of HMD's. While HMD's still fail to address all of the user's peripheral vision (approx. 180 degrees field of vision), they do achieve a measure of immersion which contributes to the VR illusion. The ability of HMD's to offer a rotating 360 point of view further contributes to a sense of having been transported. 3D stereoscopy is another powerful visual cue which contributes to a user's perceived sense of realism. Some of the disadvantages of these systems include issues such as: safety (they are still heavy, disorienting and can cause nausea; there is a real question as to the potential for retinal strain or damage resulting from long term use.), hygiene (risk of infection due to intimate contact with eyes, nose, mouth and scalp), comfort (heavy and claustrophobic; nausea), access (difficult and time consuming to get in and out of), throughput (one user per helmet) and maintenance (high degree of handling leads to high failure rate).
HMD's have proven themselves to be compelling and effective VR devices in spite of their inherent disadvantages. However, impressive as these systems are, their considerable disadvantages represent significant obstacles to their use by large segments of the disabled population. Populations for which HMD's would not be appropriate include individuals who's physical or psychological condition would obviously preclude their strapping a cumbersome and heavy helmet to their head. This would include individuals with head, neck or spinal injuries or weaknesses or persons suffering from any degree of claustrophobia. Additionally, HMD's, in their present configuration, are clearly inappropriate for any children under the age of 6 or 7 years old. HMD's can be expected to evolve, in time, into more usable lightweight and even disposable visors no more cumbersome than a typical pair of glasses, however, this is not likely to occur for another five to ten years.
InVideo / UNENCUMBERED VR
Unencumbered VR evolved in large part from the ideas and efforts of Dr. Myron Krueger, University of CT, and has reached its most popular current expression in the form of today's InVideo System.
InVideo's unencumbered VR ( also referred to as peripheral-free, mirror world and 2nd person VR) is a form of VR which utilizes a conventional TV monitor as a display device and video camera input as a tracking device. The user's live moving image is captured by a video camera and superimposed into a virtual world displayed on an oversized TV monitor. The user views him or her self on the TV monitor immersed in a virtual world and is able to interact in real-time (instantaneously) with animated and video objects that respond instantly to the user's virtual touch.
InVideo / UNENCUMBERED VR - ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES
Compared to HMD's, InVideo appears to be lacking in two important areas: 1) immersion - because InVideo is displayed on an oversized TV monitor it only addresses a small percentage of a user's field of vision, approximately 20 degrees as compared to 160 degrees on an HMD, and can therefore only be considered partially immersive. 2) 3D Stereoscopy - while InVideo is capable of offering a 3D/stereoscopic image, it would still require the use of a peripheral such as stereo or LCD shutter glasses. The current state-of-the-art in terms of the resulting image resolution and brightness of this type of configuration has dissuaded InVideo from focusing on InVideo's 3D/stereoscopic ability, at present. This situation is expected to change as 3D imaging technology matures, but at present InVideo has to be considered a 2D or 2 1/2D imaging technology.
In spite of these two perceived drawbacks, a strong claim can be made that InVideo, owing to its unique advantages, is every bit as compelling, engaging and, by some definitions, as immersive a VR experience as the more familiar HMD systems.
InVideo's main advantage as a VR system is that it is completely unencumbered, that is, it requires no helmet, headset, visor, glove or datasuit of any kind. Because InVideo is unencumbered it possesses a number of important attributes which are particularly relevant to the disabled population.
FULL BODIED / FULL RANGE OF MOTION
Being unencumbered means that InVideo is untethered, peripheral-free, passive and completely non-invasive. This collection of attributes all describe the essence of InVideo which is that because there is no hardware to put on and no cumbersome devices to wear InVideo offers the user a full-bodied interactive experience with full range of motion. This means that InVideo allows the user to engage in a broad range of physical activities which would be impossible to attempt wearing an HMD.
GESTURE RECOGNITION / TRACKING BODY MOVEMENT
An InVideo participant enjoys complete freedom of movement while engaging in an InVideo experience. Importantly, an unlimited array of human body movements and gestures can be tracked and measured by the InVideo system, via passive video camera input, as a trigger mechanism for any kind of audio or video feedback. This feature of InVideo, the ability to easily track and measure a broad range of human gestures and to then provide immediate feedback based on those measurements, provides the basis of a powerful diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative tool; a tool which has the virtue of being unencumbered, untethered, noninvasive and easy to use and which has proven itself in hundreds of public venues to be a uniquely fun, engaging and compelling interactive multimedia experience.
[note: In discussing tracking attributes the application emphasis tends towards physical therapy as opposed to psychological therapy. This is not meant to imply that important applications in the physiological realm don't exist, only that a discussion of the specifics of the individual tracking attributes are more pertinent to the physiological applications, whereas a discussion of the overall InVideo system itself (made up of the entire array of tracking attributes) and ways in which the user experiences the InVideo interface, is more pertinent to the psychological applications. The sum total of these specific tracking attributes describe an interactive system which has relevance to both areas - physiological and psychological.
RANGE OF MOTION - Employing InVideo's tracking ability one can easily design scenarios whereby a user is required to move their body, or a portion of their body, between two points. These two points can take the form of any video or animated icon and their distance apart can be made variable over time or incrementally with each new trial. Such capability might be employed to motivate a user to increase the range of motion of, or simply to exercise, an injured limb, requiring them to reach up for a virtual object as the object inches higher or further away with each trial.
SPEED - InVideo is capable of measuring the speed that it takes a user to move their body, or a portion of their body, between two points. Such capability might be employed on a full-bodied scale to motivate a disabled user to ambulate from location A to location B. Similarly, applications which track speed, can be developed for arm, leg and head movement to measure and promote coordination and reflexes. Speed goals and instant feedback can be programmed into an InVideo application to reinforce a range of therapies intended to improve and increase strength, flexibility, and coordination.
ACCURACY - InVideo offers pinpoint (single pixel) accuracy in tracking the position of a body or body part in 2D space. Employing this feature it's feasible to design applications which measure and promote coordination and control as the user is prompted to grab or touch an object or series of objects. These objects can be fixed or in motion providing for unlimited variety in the design of such applications. A user might be prompted to touch a collection of objects in a predetermined or randomly generated sequence, serving to measure and promote motor control and accuracy.
If one considers InVideo's tracking attributes while examining the existing library of InVideo games and environments it is possible to achieve a clear sense of the potential applications that would be applicable to persons with disabilities.
InVideo motivates a user to move their body in a variety of different ways. InVideo users might jump up to grab a gold coin, or pop balloons with their finger, or duck down into a crouch to avoid a spider, or reach out with both hands to grab a bug or tickle a fish, or paint shapes with virtual fingerpaint. InVideo provides the opportunity to design and create an array of diagnostic measuring modules and therapeutic applications which can utilize virtual worlds and virtual objects as components of those applications to elicit desirable behavior.
The following are examples of how a variety of basic physiological testing and therapeutic goals might be achieved utilizing InVideo's inherent gesture tracking and VR capabilities with a focus on physical movement:
1. Fish Therapy #1 / Goal:Range of Motion - A user requiring therapy to increase their range of motion in order to raise their arm above their head, might engage in an InVideo application in which they are required to reach up and touch schools of fish swimming in horizontal paths. The user scores points by touching the fish. The point value for each fish is determined by the height of their swimming path - the higher the fish the greater the number of points. This application offers a fun exercise which uses score acquisition in the context of play to motivate the user to increase their range of motion.
2. Fish Therapy #2 / Goal: Motor Control and Reflex - One could further expand on the above scenario by altering the rules of the game to require the user to touch fish as they light up individually in series. This action requires a measure of motor control and response to stimulus which can serve to either test or increase coordination and, not incidentally, strength.
3. Fish Therapy #3 / Goal: Speed - In this example the user might be required to retrieve gold coins from a sunken treasure chest while avoiding the gleaming jaws of an electric eel. This application could be designed so that the time interval enabling avoidance of the eel would be gradually reduced after each trial requiring increased speed.
UNIQUE PSYCHOLOGICAL PROPERTIES OF VR
InVideo possesses unique properties having to do with its ability, as a VR system, to transport people into a virtual environment. The true psychological and emotional impact of this capability is still not fully understood and, to date, very little data exists addressing these aspects of the VR experience. What is clear, if only anecdotally, is that VR, by virtue of its ability to address our aural and visual senses, as well as an array of haptic senses, is capable of profoundly altering our perception of reality and by extension our state of mind.
Another attribute of VR in general, and InVideo in particular, is that by virtue of its ability to address the above senses, it possesses the attribute of being able to engage, compel and focus the user's attention in an extremely powerful way. If radio, TV and video games can be considered progressively more and more compelling and addictive, then VR, by being able to address even more senses, with an even greater degree of interactivity than these previous media, can be considered the most powerful form of electronic media currently available.
With these considerations in mind, two psychological applications for InVideo seem full of potential: 1) general electronic (virtual) mood-altering and relaxation applications; and 2) specific learning-impairment and neurological-deficit training applications.
The following are examples of how a variety of basic therapeutic goals might be achieved utilizing InVideo's inherent VR capabilities with a focus on the psychological experience in these two areas:
1. Relaxation Therapy / Goal: Relaxation, Anxiety Reduction, Meditation - In the same way in which conventional media - music and video - are employed as relaxation tools, InVideo can be utilized with even more powerful effect. An InVideo relaxation module could transport a user to a virtual environment such as a forest, the desert, outerspace or underwater and even effectively simulate, with a modest degree of verisimilitude, a sense of floating or weightlessness.
The user might be invited to engage in an array of gentle or, when appropriate, forceful interactions with virtual objects - from petting animals, popping bubbles/balloons and picking flowers to striking a gong, smashing dishes and fighting a virtual opponent (such as an aerobic Kickboxing game). Such interactions would provide for a variety of low-impact aerobic, physically and psychologically engaging activities designed to redirect, deflect and channel negative or excessive energies and to promote and inspire a relaxed state of mind. Users suffering from anxiety or depression or other emotional syndromes or disorders could conceivably derive measurable benefits from the benign, non-invasive and drug-free features of InVideo.
2. Learning Enhancement / Goals: Aiding Learning and Developmentally Impaired - InVideo's ability to focus and engage the user's attention provides the therapist and educator with a powerful learning tool capable of addressing a broad array of curriculum goals. Almost any existing learning exercise or module currently employing books, flash cards or conventional multimedia tools such as video tape or video games can be greatly enhanced utilizing the InVideo System. Curriculum such as character recognition, word recognition, set recognition and issues such as object and shape discrimination can all be addressed quite effectively in a virtual world. An elementary example of such an application dealing with word recognition might display three graphic objects - a cat, a boat and a shoe - and a single word in text, "cat". A user might be prompted with a video and audio cue to select the object corresponding to the text.
While this type of application may seem simplistic and already exists in conventional hardcopy and multimedia computer-based applications, the effect of transporting the user into such an environment, so that they are effectively immersed in the material, can have a profound effect on how the user relates to and interacts with the material and content. People with disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy and neurological deficits are just a few examples of the type of individuals that might benefit from this unique form of computer interaction.
Because InVideo is unencumbered and offers full-bodied freedom of movement, it is able to engage not only the user's audio and visual senses, but their haptic senses as well. Haptic senses refer to the array of cues, other than sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, which we use to assess and sense reality; these include our sense of balance, orientation, perspective etc... InVideo's power comes from its ability to engage our haptic senses as well as sight and sound, resulting in an extremely compelling interactive experience, the nature of which differentiates the InVideo experience from previous multimedia systems and strongly suggests its potential as an important diagnostic and therapeutic tool. Add to the compelling nature of the InVideo interface the fact that it is capable of tracking and measuring both fine and gross body movements and gestures, and it is reasonable to conclude that InVideo represents a unique and potent human/computer interface with enormous potential as a diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative tool for a broad range of people with disabilities.
This writer wishes to acknowledge his lack of working experience or training in the disabilities field, and to make clear that the statements and conclusions contained herein are written from the point of view of a non-medical professional versed in computer/video technology, education and the entertainment industry.
Furthermore this writer wishes to make clear that as president and founder of InVideo Systems, Inc. his opinions cannot be considered unbiased.
However, most of the opinions and sentiments expressed herein regarding InVideo's potential have been repeatedly confirmed and upheld by numerous members of the health and medical communities all of whom are actively engaged in ongoing programming for the disabled, and all of whom have responded to the obvious potential benefits that a system like the InVideo system can offer.
This writer invites comments and proposals from members of the medical and health communities interested in learning more or actively pursuing applications employing this exciting VR tool. InVideo Systems, Inc. is seeking alliances with individuals and institutions in this community with an interest in combining our multimedia and curriculum expertise with their knowledge and expertise within the disabled field.
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