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Developing Low-cost Wearables to Support Home-based Hand Rehabilitation in Rural and Isolated Communities

   Cardiff School of Computer Science & Informatics

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  Dr Katarzyna Stawarz, Dr N Verdezoto Dias, Dr V Sparkes, Dr Gemma Whatling  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project Highlights:

  • Identify relevant literature to inform the design of technology for home-based rehabilitation as well as understanding the complexities of rurality and rural computing 
  • Explore qualitative and quantitative methods to identify requirements for low-cost wearables suitable to home use in rural areas.
  • Build and test interactive prototypes to evaluate their usability, feasibility and acceptability.

 Background: People who survive stroke or head injury due to an accident or fall are often left with long-term health complications including weakness and upper limb function impairment, resulting in difficulty performing everyday tasks. Rehabilitation can help regain upper limb function and return to independent living. However, it may not be accessible to people living in isolated or rural areas, who may not be able to easily access rehabilitation services. Moreover, outside of the hospital, adherence to rehabilitation is low as patients often lose interest due to repetitive nature of the exercises or may do them incorrectly due to fear of pain.

Technology has the potential to support rehabilitation. While several projects have been developed, these technological solutions often fail to integrate the exercises in everyday routines, and are large and expensive. Therefore, there is a pressing need for rehabilitation tools that support physiotherapy exercises at home especially for rural communities. The proliferation of cheap sensors and 3D printers offers the potential to develop accessible rehabilitation tools at a low cost.

 Aims: This PhD project will explore how low-cost wearables could support upper-limb rehabilitation at home.

 Methods: The project will involve a mixed-methods approach, including controlled experiments to evaluate the accuracy of the device, and qualitative research and design methods to engage with rural participants in order to understand their needs, gather requirements and evaluate the prototypes.

Deliverables: The main output will be a validated prototype for supporting hand rehabilitation at home. The studentship will also contribute to the fundamental understanding of how to design rehabilitation devices that can be safely used at home, which can be applied to other contexts.

Additional information: The student will be able to define specific condition (e.g. stroke, acquired brain injury, arthritis) and the communities to focus on (e.g. rural areas in Wales, specific country from the Global South) based on their interest. They will work alongside, and will be able to collaborate with, members of Human-Centred Computing (HCC) group, School of Engineering and School of Healthcare Sciences at Cardiff University.

Keywords: Human-Computer Interaction, Rehabilitation, Wearables, Rural Computing

For more information on the project please contact Dr Katarzyna Stawarz, [Email Address Removed],

Academic criteria: A 2:1 Honours undergraduate degree or a master's degree, in computing or a related subject.  Applicants with appropriate professional experience are also considered. Applicants for whom English is not their first language must demonstrate proficiency by obtaining an IELTS score of at least 6.5 overall, with a minimum of 6.0 in each skills component.

How to apply:

Please contact the supervisors of the project prior to submitting your application to discuss and develop an individual research proposal that builds on the information provided in this advert. Once you have developed the proposal with support from the supervisors, please submit your application following the instructions provided below

Please submit your application before the application deadline 29th April 2022 via Computer Science and Informatics - Study - Cardiff University

In order to be considered candidates must submit the following information: 

  • Supporting statement 
  • CV 
  • In the ‘Research Proposal’ section of the application enter the name of the project you are applying to and upload your Individual research proposal, as mentioned above in BOLD
  • In the funding field of your application, insert “I am applying for 2022 PhD Scholarship in Computer Science and Informatics”, and specify the project title and supervisors of this project in the text box provided.
  • Qualification certificates and Transcripts
  • References x 2 
  • Proof of English language (if applicable)

Interview - If the application meets the entrance requirements, you will be invited to an interview

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

A School-Funded PhD Scholarship is available for entry 2022/23.
In the Funding field of your application, insert "I am applying for 2022 PhD Scholarship" and specify the project title and supervisor of this project in the fields provided.


Akinsiku et al. (2021). It’s Not Just the Movement: Experiential Information Needed for Stroke Telerehabilitation. In Proc. CHI Conf. on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
Anowar et al. (2020). A Low-Cost Wearable Rehabilitation Device. In Proc. Int. Conf. on Computer and Automation Engineering.
Kytö et al. (2019). Using Both Hands: Tangibles for Stroke Rehabilitation in the Home. In Proc. CHI Conf. on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

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