Wheeled Mobility and Seating Rehabilitation
Our research focuses on developing sensor-based portable outcome tools that monitor real-world use of wheelchairs as related to community participation and injury prevention of wheelchair users.
Robotics and Intelligent Systems
One of the research areas focuses on advanced control of power mobility devices and assistive robotic devices. The approach is to adapt advanced technologies for robotics and other fields to assistive systems to provide safe and independent mobility and manipulation solutions to individuals with disabilities. We are interested in developing integrated human-machine systems where user control is seamlessly interfaced with autonomous machine control based on user abilities and needs. One of the projects is to develop and evaluate an assistive robotic manipulator (AKA: KitchenBot) for people with upper limb impairments following a participatory design approach. KitchenBot operates along an overhead track built into the kitchen and provides manipulation assistance for a variety of kitchen tasks. Another project is to develop and experimentally verify the sensing and control technologies needed for non-intrusive terrain-dependent Electric Powered Wheelchair (EPW) assistance. The research builds upon an existing expert-user knowledge base for terrain-dependent control and driving strategies for off-road vehicles.
Another research area aims to gain knowledge that will inform the design of technologies that adaptively coach people with cognitive impairments through tasks of everyday living. The general concept is to embed technologies in a living environment to perceive a person’s actions, predict if the user will fail without some prompting, and if so, intervene with appropriate cues to guide him/her toward success. We have selected meal preparation and related kitchen tasks as a valuable representative set of applications. Our approach is a testbed: a fully functional kitchen augmented with instrumentation and a variety of computer-generated stimuli (cues), as well as computer-controlled actuators, for technology integration and evaluation in user studies.
Tissue Integrity Management
David Brienza and Patricia Karg
The Tissue Integrity Management Laboratory is dedicated to the prevention, evaluation and treatment of soft tissue pathology. We are particularly interested in prevention of pressure injuries (a.k.a. pressure ulcers, pressure sores, decubitus ulcers). The nature of our work spans product development and evaluation, preclinical research, and clinical trials. Some of our recent accomplishments include the successful completion of a large-scale rigorous RCT on the effectiveness of wheelchair seat cushions for prevention of pressure injuries; preclinical investigations on the use of temperature control for increasing soft tissue ischemia tolerance for people with spinal cord injury; investigation of the seated anatomy and its contribution to pressure injury risk; development and evaluation of a novel mattress overlay for preventing pressure injuries in the ICU; development and validation of standardized test methods for quantifying the characteristics of cushions and mattresses for pressure injury prevention and treatment; development and evaluation of diabetic footwear with integrated temperature control orthoses for prevention of diabetic foot ulcers; and development of novel materials for use in vacuum assisted prosthesis socket liners that remove sweat from the socket without compromising the air-tight seal.
The Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL)
The Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) is a collaboration between the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, the University of Pittsburgh, and UPMC Health System. HERL is dedicated to wheelchair and mobility research, specifically by improving the mobility and function of people with disabilities through advanced engineering in clinical research and medical rehabilitation. HERL also studies athletics in rehabilitation, assistive living spaces, the efficiency of wheelchair transfers, clinician training, and force and vibration on wheelchair users.