News Online: New realistic driving simulator helping patients in Edmonton

Published online at on March 30, 2011.

Linda Hoang, Global News: Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New realistic driving simulator helping patients in Edmonton

One of the most advanced driving simulators in North America is now helping patients at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.

The $145,000 machine, which was installed last month, helps patients recovering from injuries or illness get back behind the wheel comfortably and safely.

The Canadian-made “Virage VS500M” is the only rehabilitation ride of its kind in Alberta and officials say it will be invaluable in helping the province’s patients.

“If they’re worried about starting to drive, if they’re worried about some of the physical skills, worried about maybe they can’t steer anymore… they’ll be able to use this and get some confidence,” said Terry Blois, a rehabilitation engineer with the Glenrose.

“If they’re worried that they maybe can’t see everything, that they’ll forget some parts of driving, they can practice on here, they can practice over and over and over until they’re confident. They can re-learn a lot of those skills and test a lot of those skills on this driving simulator.”

Patient Janelle Meredith, 37, is recovering from a stroke, and credits the simulator with helping her regain confidence in driving.

“It’s very real. It helped me a lot,” Meredith said.

“It gave me a very real perspective of driving, showed me my blind spots… and got me used to driving with other vehicles around.”

A number of different realistic driving scenarios can be created for drivers including day or night, rain or shine, urban, rural or even blizzard conditions.

Three large screens surround the driver giving him or her a 180 degree, immersive view.

The simulator is meant to be as realistic as possible, mimicking acceleration, vibrations and other similiar car movements caused by driving over potholes and even rolling over a sidewalk.

“The system also provides us with objective evidence when we want to track how well someone is performing,” said occupational therapist Jonathan Halton.

“The software has that information built right in. We can generate reports to track our patients’ progress.”

Glenrose staff also customized this Virage, making the driver’s seat removable for wheelchair patients, as well as having hand controls for amputee drivers.

Click here to read the article on the Global Edmonton website.

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