This week, the VI International University and Disability Congress “Moving towards inclusive university models“, is taking place. It is organized by the ONCE Foundation and the Social Affairs Service (SAS) of the University of Salamanca. This event that brings together more than half a thousand attendees to discuss and learn about the latest developments in advanced therapies. In this regard, the BISITE Research Group of the University of Salamanca is developing diverse cross-cutting capabilities that allow it to undertake all kinds of projects related to rehabilitation technologies; accessibility, interpreters and telecare; connected therapeutic dolls; virtual and augmented reality for rehabilitation or accessibility; and advanced therapies and artificial intelligence.
I had the opportunity to participate as the Director of BISITE in the roundtable “Accessibility and technologies applied to education“, together with Marta Gago Castro, from the Universia Foundation; Anna Matamala Ripoll, Director of the AccessCat network; and Antonio Sánchez Kaiser, Founder of Bemyvega; under the moderation of Jesús Hernández Galán, Director of Accessibility and Innovation at the ONCE Foundation. This was an opportunity to put on the table the opportunities offered by technology for accessibility, especially in the area of education, and all that still lies ahead in this area.
Application of technologies in advanced therapies
The Research Group has a stand where attendees can learn about some of the projects that apply technologies to improve the quality of life of patients. One of those projects is InTrack; a device that allows to monitor the progression of a patient with knee problems. The Traumatology Department of the Hospital of Salamanca, headed by specialist Juan Blanco, has already successfully tested the first prototype on patients who have undergone cruciate ligament surgery. The device, which was designed by BISITE researchers, allows the patient to measure the mobility of their knee at home when the traumatologist tells them to do so.
In this line of rehabilitation technologies, researchers are testing a crutch capable of measuring the force the patient exerts on it when walking. The device is based on a standard crutch on which a sensor is installed to measure the force exerted by the patient each time he or she uses it. These data are sent to a platform designed to be used both by the patient and their physiotherapist, who can then monitor the patient’s progress, set new challenges, or establish alerts for the user.
Also on display, at the VI International University and Disability Congress is the SpineCare device, a project in the field of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart textiles and rehabilitation technologies designed for the prevention of occupational hazards and postural correction. The objective in this case is to monitor the loss of mobility caused by neurodegenerative diseases. The prototype has three sensors with 9-axis IMU technology that are placed on the dorsal, mid-back and lumbar spine, which measure acceleration and rotation, and an additional baseline sensor at pelvic level. The device has been designed to be placed inside a T-shirt with a small battery located at waist level that connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth, so that the patient sees the data in real time on his or her smartphone and the physiotherapist receives it on a platform. At the moment, SpineCare is being tested, but the researchers are optimistic and believe that the device could be used for different ailments, such as multiple sclerosis.
In addition, the Apapachoa therapeutic dolls designed to stimulate patients’ emotions are also on display at the stand. The researchers have placed an electronic system inside the dolls, so that their cheeks light up, their hearts beat, they make sounds, and they can even play music. They have two modes of operation: on the one hand, the person interacts, and the doll responds, and on the other, the psychologist or therapist controls the doll and makes it cry, for example, so that users can look for a way to calm the crying. Like the other devices, the dolls are connected to a mobile application and a platform for the professionals who work with them.
The testing of the Apapachoa dolls has already begun and they will soon be validated among the patients at the Alzheimer’s Reference Center of Salamanca, in the hope that in the near future they will become an integral part of the therapy offered at nursing homes.
It is without a doubt an interesting initiative, and I would like to thank the ONCE Foundation and the Social Affairs Service (SAS) of the University of Salamanca for the invitation, which is doing excellent work under the direction of Ana Belén Sánchez, whom I congratulate for the brilliant organization of the congress with the ONCE Foundation and for her daily work, providing support to those who need it most and making the University of Salamanca stand out as an inclusive university where everyone has a place.