A wearable light-touch contact device for human balance support
Journal: 2021/April - BioImpacts
There is an urgent need for the development of ways to address the major issue of falls among today's globally aging population. The authors here outline a new approach referred to as virtual light-touch contact to mitigate postural sway during ambulatory and stationary periods, and propose a wearable light-touch (WLT) system featuring a virtual partition around the user that allows determination of virtual forces resulting from related contact. The data produced are used to create vibrotactile fingertip feedback, which supports comprehensive perception of the partition. Non-impaired subjects were recruited to support evaluation of the prototype system (incorporating tactile stimulation and motion-capture technology), with outcomes showing successful mitigation of postural sway in a heel-to-toe tandem stance. Research performed with 150 able-bodied volunteers to validate the performance of the new set-up (incorporating an acceleration sensor and a voice coil motor to render the light-touch effect) suggested that the proposed WLT approach supports human balance on a level comparable to that of the light-touch effect.
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