Undergraduate students like senior Jackson Richards work within the Applied Biomechanics Laboratory to investigate balance impairment and fall risks in adults due to aging and neurological disease or injury. Their goal is to introduce new rehabilitative approaches for preserving mobility and preventing falls.
To measure this, participants walk on a treadmill while a virtual reality (VR) simulation is projected on a screen. The combined use of sensors attached to specific muscles, as well as 3D cameras, allow researchers to see a rendering of the experiment in real-time and track how the participant reacts to perceived imbalance.
The lab is also adapting the program to a VR headset, hoping to introduce the technology to facilities like balance and physical therapy clinics.
Jackson Richards saw this research as a way for him to apply what he learned in class to work in the lab. “I was drawn to working in the lab because I thought it was a cool application of material I learned in some of my classes,” he says. “I also thought it was really interesting some of the clinical applications – I could see that some of the research directly led into applications that could better other peoples’ lives.”