Welcome to iDome: Concept offers a headset-free VR ride therapy

A player immersed in the game, watching the events on the iDome.  Images: Satriawan et al.  https://doi.org/10.3390/designs6050076
A player immersed in the game, watching the events on the iDome. Images: Satriawan et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/designs6050076

Researchers have developed exercise-based game software and a console to help provide a virtual reality-based experience on a riding simulator.

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

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

Ardianto Satriawan and fellow researchers note that horse-riding exercise, also known as hippotherapy, is a common treatment for children with cerebral palsy.

However, the need for trained therapists, the land, and costs associated with horse care can make horseback riding therapy unaffordable, or unavailable, for most patients in Indonesia.

This led the study team to consider simulating mechanical riding to replace the actual therapy of riding a horse.

“However, most patients are children and it is easy for them to get bored when they are asked to do monotonous activities for a long time,” they said. “The room setting also does not provide the patient with visual input that would normally help motivate children in horseback riding activities.”

Horse Riding Simulator and Exercise Equipment: (a) Jufit JFF043QM Horse Riding Simulator;
(b) Sirkus Apel game screenshot; (c) Arduino UNO R9 and 9-axis motion shield; and (d), inertial packed
The user-worn control device.

To solve this problem, they designed an exercise game program called Circus AppleWhich means Apple CircusTo provide users with an enjoyable experiential activity while doing therapy.

They also designed an inertial sensor-based controller that allows patients to control the in-game horse through the movements of their back, which can benefit cerebral palsy patients.

The researchers decided not to use head-mounted displays, which typically provide input for virtual reality, for safety reasons.

They said that head-mounted displays can be dangerous for children, as they impede their view of the environment, especially when riding in a riding simulator.

“Many researchers have also reported another problem with head-mounted monitor use: motion sickness caused by a discrepancy between the visual input of the eyes and the user’s movements.”

Dome based virtual reality equipment: (a) spherical convex mirror;  (b) LCD display device;  (c) iDome without dropping;  and (d) iDome displays virtual reality content.
Dome based virtual reality equipment: (a) spherical convex mirror; (b) LCD display device; (c) iDome without dropping; and (d) iDome displays virtual reality content.

They said this can lead to nausea, headache, confusion and vomiting, which is dangerous and uncomfortable, especially for children with cerebral palsy.

However, they still want to make the visual input enjoyable for the user. To achieve this, they built a convex dome based on a mirror to provide a three-dimensional view.

“We then project the game content onto the dome to provide an immersive experience for patients making them feel as if they were riding a real horse inside the game.”

They base their dome on the iDome design by Paul Bourke, featured in a 2009 study.

“iDome’s design is inspired by the shape of a planetarium hemisphere. The hemisphere is cut in half to place users in front of the dome rather than under it. This setup provides a wide immersive view without any obstruction to projectors but keeps the user aware of the surroundings.”

The team combined their exergaming software, a virtual reality dome, a riding simulator (made by Jufit Smart Tech in China), and all the equipment needed to create a hippo therapy simulation platform.

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

The program animates the width of the horse’s head, to make the user feel like he is riding a real horse. The end result can provide children with enjoyable experiences while giving them the benefit of treatment to improve their health conditions.

Six healthy adult participants tested a hippotherapy simulator. They reported no signs of motion sickness. They felt relatively safe while testing the device and noted iDome is immersive.

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

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

“Each type of rehabilitation may require specific horse movements, which can be provided by mechanical means.”

Interesting future research could focus on designing a suitable mechanical horse, which can create movements for all required gaits. “We can also design a flexible saddle and footrest to fit all age groups of patients.”

The study team said they consider their simulator a cost-effective investment. They intended to donate their design to Dr. Hassan Sadegin Hospital in Bandung.

The study team consisted of Satriawan, Weldan Trosagi, and Muhammad Ujjain Hasanuddin, with the Bandung Institute of Technology. and Septia Susanti Rahadini, Mayang Cendikia Selekta and Ellyana Sungkar with Dr. Hassan Sadegin General Hospital.

Satriwan, A.; Trossage, W.; Hassan El Din, Missouri; Al Rahadini, S. S.; Selecta, MC; Sungkar, E. Design of Virtual Reality-Based Hippotherapy Simulator Exergaming Software and its Monitor for the Rehabilitation of Children with Cerebral Palsy in Indonesia: An Engineering Concept. Designs 2022, 6, 76. https://doi.org/10.3390/designs6050076

The study published under CC licensecan be read over here.

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