Welcome to the iDome: Concept offers virtual reality riding therapy without a headset

A gamer immersed in the game and following the action on the iDome.  Images: Satriawan et al.
A gamer immersed in the game and following the action on the iDome. Images: Satriawan et al.

Exercise-based gaming software and a controller were developed by researchers to enable a virtual reality-based experience on a horseback riding simulator.

The developers believe that their technical concept, which does not use a virtual reality headset, could benefit children with cerebral palsy.

The Indonesian study team described in the journal its design, which includes a convex mirror to provide participants with an immersive virtual reality environment drafts.

Ardianto Satriawan and his research colleagues found that horseback riding, also known as hippotherapy, is a popular treatment for children with cerebral palsy.

However, the need for trained therapists, land, and the costs associated with keeping horses can make hippotherapy unaffordable or unavailable for most patients in Indonesia.

This prompted the study team to consider mechanical riding simulators to replace actual equine hippotherapy.

“However, most of the patients are children and get bored easily when they have to engage in monotonous activities for a long period of time,” they said. “The spatial situation also does not give the patient any visual inputs that normally help to motivate the children in hippotherapy activities with real horses.”

The Horse Riding Simulator and Exergaming Equipment: (a) the Jufit JFF043QM horse simulator device;
(b) a screenshot of the Sirkus Apel game; (c) the Arduino UNO R9 and 9-axis motion shield; and (d) the packed inertia
Sensor controller worn by a user.

To solve this problem, they designed practice game software called Sircus Apelwhich does ______________ mean apple circusto provide users with a fun exergaming activity during therapy.

They also designed an inertial sensor-based controller that would allow patients to control the in-game horse through their back movements, which may benefit patients with cerebral palsy.

For safety reasons, the researchers decided against using head-mounted displays, which traditionally provide virtual reality inputs.

Head-mounted displays can be dangerous for children as they block their view of the surroundings, especially when riding in a horseback riding simulator.

“Numerous researchers are also reporting another problem with the use of head-mounted displays: motion sickness, which is caused by the inconsistency between the eyes’ visual input and the user’s movements.”

The dome-based virtual reality equipment: (a) The spherical convex mirror;  (b) the LCD projector;  (c) iDome without projection;  and (d) the iDome projects virtual reality content.
The dome-based virtual reality equipment: (a) The spherical convex mirror; (b) the LCD projector; (c) iDome without projection; and (d) the iDome projects virtual reality content.

This, they said, can cause nausea, headaches, disorientation, and vomiting, which are dangerous and uncomfortable, especially for children with cerebral palsy.

Still, they wanted to make the visual input pleasant for the user. To achieve this, they built a convex, mirror-based dome to allow for a three-dimensional view.

“Then we project the game content onto the dome to give patients an immersive experience, as if they were riding a real horse in the game.”

They based their dome on the design of Paul Bourke’s iDome, which was reported in a 2009 study.

“The design of iDome is inspired by the shape of a planetarium hemisphere. The hemisphere is bisected to place users in front of the dome, not below. This setup offers a wide, immersive view unobstructed by projection hardware, yet keeps the user aware of the surroundings.”

The team integrated their exergaming software, virtual reality dome, horse riding simulator (made by Jufit Smart Tech in China) and all the necessary equipment to create a complete hippotherapy simulator platform.

The game they developed requires users to avoid obstacles by moving the horse in the game and picking up apples that appear on the ground. It consists of four levels or more precisely scenes.

The software animates the horse’s head view to give the user the feeling of riding a real horse. The end result can provide children with fun experiences while providing them with the benefits of therapy to improve their health.

Six healthy adult participants tested the hippotherapy simulator. They reported no signs of motion sickness. They felt relatively confident testing the device and noted the immersiveness of the iDome.

The authors said they were interested in testing the effectiveness of the hippotherapy simulator device in children with cerebral palsy, particularly with regard to their postural control. They have already identified some volunteers to conduct further research in this area.

“Apart from cerebral palsy rehabilitation, hippotherapy is known to be an effective rehabilitation method for patients with neurological and other disabilities such as stroke victims, autism, head injuries, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and many others.

“Any type of rehabilitation may require specific horse movements that can be provided by mechanical means.”

Potentially interesting future research could focus on the development of a suitable mechanical horse that could produce movements for all required gaits. “We can also design a flexible saddle and footrest to accommodate all age groups of patients.”

The study team said they viewed their simulator as a cost-effective investment. They intended to give their design to Dr. Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung.

The study team consisted of Satriawan, Wildan Trusaji and Muhammad Ogin Hasanuddin from the Bandung Institute of Technology; and Septia Susanti Rahadini, Mayang Cendikia Selekta and Ellyana Sungkar, with Dr. Hasan Sadikin General Hospital.

Satriawan, A.; Trusaji, W.; Hasanuddin, MO; Rahadini, SS; Selekta, MC; Sungkar, E. Design of a virtual reality-based hippotherapy simulator exergaming software and its controller for the rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy in Indonesia: A technical concept. Drafts 2022, 6, 76.

The study, published under a Creative Commons Licensecan be read here.

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