Background: Cycling has been used in the rehabilitation of individuals with both chronic and post-surgical conditions. Among the challenges with implementing bicycling for rehabilitation is the recruitment of both extremities, in particular when one is weaker or less coordinated. Feedback embedded in virtual reality (VR) augmented cycling may serve to address the requirement for efficacious cycling; specifically recruitment of both extremities and exercising at a high intensity. Methods. In this paper a mechatronic rehabilitation bicycling system with an interactive virtual environment, called Virtual Reality Augmented Cycling Kit (VRACK), is presented. Novel hardware components embedded with sensors were implemented on a stationary exercise bicycle to monitor physiological and biomechanical parameters of participants while immersing them in an augmented reality simulation providing the user with visual, auditory and haptic feedback. This modular and adaptable system attaches to commercially-available stationary bicycle systems and interfaces with a personal computer for simulation and data acquisition processes. The complete bicycle system includes: a) handle bars based on hydraulic pressure sensors; b) pedals that monitor pedal kinematics with an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and forces on the pedals while providing vibratory feedback; c) off the shelf electronics to monitor heart rate and d) customized software for rehabilitation. Bench testing for the handle and pedal systems is presented for calibration of the sensors detecting force and angle. Results: The modular mechatronic kit for exercise bicycles was tested in bench testing and human tests. Bench tests performed on the sensorized handle bars and the instrumented pedals validated the measurement accuracy of these components. Rider tests with the VRACK system focused on the pedal system and successfully monitored kinetic and kinematic parameters of the rider's lower extremities. Conclusions: The VRACK system, a virtual reality mechatronic bicycle rehabilitation modular system was designed to convert most bicycles in virtual reality (VR) cycles. Preliminary testing of the augmented reality bicycle system was successful in demonstrating that a modular mechatronic kit can monitor and record kinetic and kinematic parameters of several riders. © 2014 Ranky et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Ranky, R. G., Sivak, M. L., Lewis, J. A., Gade, V. K., Deutsch, J. E., & Mavroidis, C. (2014). Modular mechatronic system for stationary bicycles interfaced with virtual environment for rehabilitation. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-0003-11-93