Our guest bloggers today are soon-to-be or recently graduated students at the University of Seville (Spain), and the developers of the open source project Virtual Valley.
Virtual Valley: e-Health with Wonderland
By Ángel Brasero, Santiago Hors and Salvador Romero
We have been kindly invited to write a post in the Wonderblog by the Open Wonderland staff. Thank you!
Virtual Valley is a virtual world to assist patients during physical rehabilitation at home. The world is entirely controlled by low-cost game controllers like the Nintendo Wii Remote, and non-intrusive medical sensors. Virtual Valley is currently in an experimental phase.
In its early conception, it was intended for middle-aged people with chronic diseases who need physical rehabilitation to control the evolution of their illnesses. We believe, however, that it can also be useful for athletes and other injured people.
One of the most difficult challenges in rehabilitation is to keep the patient motivated once they return home and dealing with the expectation of performing the exercises independently. Based on previous research and experience, we anticipate motivating patients through the use of exergames, education, and the socialization that a virtual world provides.
Advantages / Innovations:
- Low Cost: A deployment of a Virtual Valley client only requires a PC at the patient’s home plus some popular game controllers connected to the patient’s home TV. We can also convert affordable exercise devices into wireless smart devices through the use of the game controls.
- Medical monitoring and personalization: All the exercises and activities performed by the user are registered and can be monitored by a doctor. Exergames can be configured for different demanding levels or even completely different kind of exercises.
- Socialization / motivation: Patients can meet and exercise with other patients, doctors or even relatives, who can enter in the world to perform keep-fit exercises.
- Embed existing software: Through the use of Wonderland’s X11 application feature, we can embed previous health and exercise systems into the virtual world, adding the social layer to these legacy systems.
We make use of the Nintendo Wii remote, Nunchuck and Wiimotion Plus through a modified version of the open source Wiigee library. We are using Bluecove for wireless communication, as well as the Widdcomm Bluetooth Stack, provided with a $10 bluetooth dongle. We have built our own Java libraries for the Nintendo Wii Board and the Nonin Pulse-oximeter.
We have also developed some other libraries to provide abstract functions from the sensors data, such as the WiiMote Pointer, a library that converts the information from the Wiimote IR camera to screen coordinates (avoiding the corner problem present in other libraries), and a mouse and keyboard emulator based on the java.util.Robot class.
All this software is encapsulated in a high-end ‘comm library’ that hides the devices to the user, and instead, provides ‘services’ following an event-driven model.
Exergames and Modules
All exergames (with the exception of legacy X11 system) are implemented with Wonderland Modules. The comm library described above, in the form of a .jar file, is used by Wonderland Modules to provide a way of communicating with the devices. We also make use of MySQL Database to keep patient data and exergames configuration. There are also other modules such as X11 application launchers and medical information displays.
Virtual Valley is an Open Source project developed by master thesis students of the University of Seville (Spain) in collaboration with the Northern Research Institute – Norut (Norway). We expect to have a web site and to start uploading the code soon, focusing first on the game controllers.
The project is still in an experimental phase, as we stated before, and under development by undergraduate students at the University of Seville and Norut. We expect to start testing soon with volunteers both in Spain and Norway.
Acknowledgments and Miscellaneous
Some scientific papers have been published regarding Virtual Valley in international e-Health conferences and the IEEE. Salvador’s master thesis was awarded second place in the 2nd Ed. National Master Thesis Award by Sun Microsystems Spain.
We wish to thank our tutors: Professors Dr. José Luis Sevillano and Dr. Daniel Cascado (University of Seville), researchers Luis Fernandez-Luque and Dr. Lars K. Vognild (Norut) for their invaluable support and guide, and Dr. Miguel Fernández (Sport Centre at the University of Seville) for his priceless collaboration. Thanks also to Telefónica Chairs for its financial support.