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Art and Design Research Centre


A rehabilitation device for people who have suffered a stroke

This was the main project from my MA work, forming part of the ongoing SMART project.

The product is a rehabilitation device for people who have suffered a stroke. It is an addition to the community support provided by Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists; since it provides authoritative feedback about the quality of a person’s rehabilitation exercises as they perform them. Currently, people do not have such support outside of the visits from healthcare professionals. The system consists of a computer, which is wirelessly connected to 3 motion sensors that are worn by the person. The computer records the information from the sensors, and displays the person’s exercise on screen, giving feedback so the person can improve.

The SMART prototype works using three sensors worn on the user’s body- one for the upper arm, one for the wrist and a third for the chest. These are held in place with three garments, that look a little like sports wear. One of the outcomes from the evaluation of the testing of the SMART prototype was that the participants had difficulty in putting the garments on, and taking them off, which meant that the users became flustered and frustrated. Also, the users could not put all three garments on by themselves, and they required help from a carer. This led to the situation where it took longer to put the garments on and adjust them that for the exercise program to be completed.

The outcome of the MA study was a success- the new garments outperformed the old ones, with some really excellent feedback given from the participants. Over the course of the MA program, I set about redesigning the garments by consulting stroke survivors and Healthcare Professionals. Initially, this enquiry took the familiar line of a designer producing a solution to a client’s brief. As the project progressed however, it became apparent that the people who had the lived experience of having survived a stroke could offer much more by being co-designers. This personal revelation fuelled the decision to pursue PhD study in this area.

The project also meant applying for proper ethics approval and employing rigorous research techniques to produce a justifiable concept, which could be shown to work well. The SMART 1 project is ongoing, and this MA work was validated as part of the wider SMART 1 project.

Researchers involved

Matt Dexter - Research Associate

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