A wonderful project example in which VIRO has effectively integrated the disciplines is the fall-simulator which was developed for the UMC St. Radboud Hospital in Nijmegen. Theo de Vries, department manager Software & Control at VIRO-branch Hengelo, about this project: “The design of the fall-simulator was quite the challenge. First of all, the application was exceptional. You built a device to make people fall over and subsequently, you measure what happens to these people for the benefit of the doctors’ research. Worldwide there are systems for sale with a similar purpose but the wish here was also to create an increased freedom to move than currently available on the market. This wish sets high demands on the way you measure and the accelerations and speeds you want to achieve. It is clear that at the same time the patient’s safety has to be guaranteed at all times. Moreover, the installation-depth of this device was really small, sounds production unwanted and all technology had to be integrated and become invisible. And there were still some other conditions which made a standard solution impossible.”
“This instrument was developed with different groups of users in mind”, according to Theo de Vries. “On the one hand it was built for the neurology department that researches people suffering from a stroke and therefore have to deal with a malfunctioning brain part that regulates balance; on the other hand it can also be used as rehabilitation-instrument to help people rehabilitate and train them in order to improve their balance”.
But what makes this device unique? Theo de Vries explains: “It really is a unique instrument in the health care sector. It can handle heavy weights (150 kg) and it can move with proper gear control. When this device moves, one or two things will move along and you can see there’s quite some dynamics. Measurements have to be conducted with camera systems and power plates and subsequently, the data has to be collected, linked and synchronised. This is not trivial research and customization is necessary. Knowledge and knowhow are indispensable to reach the results demanded. That is VIRO’s strength. VIRO design the mechanical constructions and the corresponding regulatory system at the same time which is why these kinds of projects can be realised successfully.”
Essential part of this trajectory was to be able to outline beforehand what the client’s demands were and the way the user interface had to be programmed. That is key to the user’s experience with the device. Therefore, the user interface, the way the device is managed and used, is very important for the software. “That’s why we prefer to shape this in an interactive process making use of the feedback and experiences of the user”, according to Theo de Vries. “The user wants to be part of the process in order to be able to execute influence on the result. The difficulty with these kinds of complex projects is that there is not set guideline for the process. You come up with an instrument and know what you want to use it for but it does not exist yet. The approach is something you have come up with beforehand but when the instrument is finished you notice things you hadn’t imagined in advance. The function won’t change much but the way of interacting is something you need to learn. In fact; you’re creating a new piece of world of which you wouldn’t be able to describe in detail the best way of using it, in advance. Experience is key to that learning process.”
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