Being able to keep your balance is something most of us take for granted. People with inner ear problems due to an accident or surgery or other dizziness have to live with this problem on a chronic basis. A balance prosthesis, worn around the torso, giving feedback about their upright position via tactile vibrators has been shown to help these people keep their balance.
The goal and purpose for this study has been to conduct research on how to improve the existing balance prosthesis and adapt it to fit the user. The research has been conducted with the focus on human factors, meaning with the users’ experience as the premier aspect.
To be able to reach a good solution with a prototype that would be an improvement compared to the existing device, a vest, several stages have been passed. At first twelve criteria were set up to establish human factors and hedonomic requirements. To fulfill these requirements, surveys with users were conducted. An extensive phase of prototyping and material research informed the design of a final concept.
The final concept was a prototype balance belt that contains six vibrators, called tactors, and models of the other electronic components. The belt has an elastic band as a base and then a black spandex fabric that covers all components. A Velcro band and a buckle are used to open and close the belt. Finally the belt has a beige spandex cover that can be pulled on and off. This cover makes the belt easy to keep clean because the cover can be washed.
The prototype is made in three different sizes so it can fit most people in the US population. In the near future it will be important to make an evaluation of the balance belt with users. It needs to be tested if the vibrators are possible to feel and how it feels to wear the belt for a longer time. An aid to help pulling the cover onto the belt also has to be developed because putting on the cover is a bit difficult right now.
Source: Linköping University
Author: Zachrisson, Therese