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(MRC DTP) Virtual Reality as a tool for mobility measurement and rehabilitation in Visual Impairment

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  • Full or part time
    Prof C Dickinson
    Dr P Warren
    Dr S Harper
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The World Health Organisation estimates that 253 million people worldwide are visually impaired, and 39 million people are blind (see: Visual impairment is a global concern, which is likely to become more significant as the standard of medical care improves, and the average lifespan increases. Visual impairment brings a wide range of psychological and practical challenges to everyday life, not least in ’’mobility’: the ability to travel from one place to another safely and independently. Many studies have looked at the relationship between visual performance and mobility performance. However, quantifying mobility is difficult (often involving use of indoor and outdoor “obstacle” courses) and the most critical situations for mobility failure would involve putting patient safety at risk. In this project we will address these issues using newly available Motion Capture (MC) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies. Such equipment is becoming commonplace and using such equipment we will investigate the design of new mobility assessments, including tests in safety critical scenarios. Moreover, we will also look to develop and evaluate novel interventions that can improve mobility performance in visual impairment.

We aim to develop a suite of virtual mobility testing courses incorporating tasks that would be dangerous in the real world, such as moving through cluttered environments including multiple trip hazards, walking down virtual stairs and driving. Use of motion capture and VR will also enable us to gather a richer set of metrics to characterise mobility performance than is commonly used, which could also lead to earlier detection of mobility problems. We will also investigate the impact of different types of visual impairment for example central vs. peripheral visual field loss on mobility in these contexts. Critically, VR enables us to examine these issues both with healthy participants (simulating field loss) and real visually impaired patients. The ultimate aim of the project is to use the unique capabilities of VR to design and test rehabilitation programmes that would improve mobility performance. For example, individuals with limited visual capacity experience a bottleneck for visual input. Multiplexing is one strategy to overcome this, where several items of data are presented at the same time and/or in the same location. Perceptually this can be confusing, and VR would allow us to explore the most efficient configurations for information delivery.

The website for the UoM Virtual Reality Resarch (VR2) Facility is currently under construction but we have a twitter feed: @MAN_VR2.

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the MRC Doctoral Training Partnership. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the MRC DTP website

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

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