Consumer Electronics Devices Impact Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology
Imagine devices that allow you to control your computer without touching a keyboard, mouse or screen, or let you effortlessly traverse a virtual world using a 3D headset and multi-directional treadmill. High-tech devices like these already exist and may be at your local electronics store soon. While consumer electronics are a multi-billion dollar business, the technology that fuels them is also a boon to the field of rehabilitation  and assistive technology .
At Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, we keep a watchful eye on new and upcoming consumer electronics and incorporate the newest technology into the rehabilitation process. We often work with companies to test devices that can be used by people with disabilities to help them navigate their environment or by people in therapy recovering from illnesses and injuries.
Some of the most fascinating devices that are coming on the market include:
- Leap Motion : By creating a sensor field in front of the computer and detecting the motion of the hands and fingers, this device allows people to use their computers without touching a keyboard, mouse or screen. One possible application to the rehabilitation field is testing reaction time in patients who have had a traumatic brain injury.
- Socially Assistive Robots: There are robots that can respond to the touch, learn, mimic human movements or give feedback. These interactive devices may have a variety of applications in therapy for children, people with autism, stroke patients, people with Alzheimer’s disease and many others.
- The Oculus Rift  3D Virtual Reality Headset and Omni Virtuix  Directional Treadmill: While these are independent technologies, together they may have applications that can be used to diagnose and treat people with cognitive conditions such as brain injury or stroke.
- 3D Printers: These printers have the potential to create highly engineered but low cost prosthetics.
- Google Glass : A wearable recording and information projection system worn like eyeglasses, the device is synced by Bluetooth technology to the user’s smart phone. The “heads-up” display feature of Glass has the potential to bring key patient information to the doctor, nurse and therapists in real-time as they are treating. Someday rehabilitation patients may be able use Google Glass to access video displays of therapeutic exercises and track their personal recovery.
Many devices already in use in therapy at Good Shepherd were impossible to imagine just a few short years ago, such as the Ekso bionic exoskeleton  or AlterG bionic leg . Consumer electronics such as the iPad have become important tools in rehabilitation, replacing bulky, more expensive equipment. Today’s innovative consumer electronics may mean fun and games for their users, but they can also be life altering technology for people with disabilities and those with debilitating conditions.