Visualizing Physical Therapy with Electroluminescence Wire


Physical therapists have limited ways of assessing whether patients are undergoing treatment regularly and correctly. Likewise, patients undergoing physical therapy have limited ability to assess the accuracy of their exercises. We are developing a wearable electronic device that will provide an indication of rehabilitation progress and accuracy through an ambient visual display (electroluminescence wire) to remedy these problems. Therapy patients will be able to visualize their exercises and therapists can monitor the accuracy and regularity of their patients’ home exercise programs. This feedback loop can lead to patients that are more likely to adhere to the treatment plan thereby facilitating recovery.

Collaborators: University of Colorado Health Sciences Center


  • Swamy Ananthanarayan, Alice Y. Chien, Miranda Sheh, and Katie A. Siek. Visualizing physical therapy with electroluminescence wire. In Madhu Reddy, Lena Mamykina, and Andrea Grimes Parker, editors, Workshop on Interactive Systems in Healthcare, pp. 179-182, 2011.  Download: [pdf]
  • Alice Y. Chien, and Miranda Sheh. Visualizing Knee Physical Rehabilitation Exercises with Electroluminescent Wire. In Proceedings of Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, 3 pages, 2012. Download: [pdf]



Project Updates

  • Fall 2011 Update: Alice and Miranda have been incredibly active since the the start of the CREU. In August and September, they experimented with EL wire, light sensors, and LabView to create kits for a 1st year projects engineering class. The final product was our lab (WII) logo in EL wire that lit up when the room got dark. In addition, Alice and Miranda created three tutorials to assist the community with designing similar logos (see Artifacts above). Through this experimentation, they found that LabView was not suitable for the envisioned project. Also, during this time they submitted their Visualizing Physical Therapy with Electroluminescence Wire idea to the Workshop for Interactive Systems for Healthcare (WISH) and got accepted. In the last month, they have been exploring appropriate flex sensors (from, hardware (Arduino Uno), and programming languages (Arduino C) to create a prototype of the physical therapy visualization system (see blogs from September 25 and October 13). Ideally, Alice, Miranda, and Swamy would like to have a prototype of the system to show at the WISH workshop later this month. We will iterate and create a better prototype in December/January. The technical aspects of the system will be submitted to the Pervasive Healthcare Conference in February. In addition to doing research each week, Miranda and Alice attend weekly meetings with Swamy Ananthanarayan and attend the weekly lab meeting with Professor Siek and the rest of the Wellness Innovation and Interaction lab.
  • Spring 2012 Update: Alice and Miranda continue to make impressive progress on the visualizing physical therapy with electroluminescence wire project. They successfully presented their project at the Workshop for Interactive Systems for Healthcare (WISH) in October and got to network with established and upcoming researchers in the medical informatics community.  After the workshop, the research team focused on appropriate physical therapy exercises by meeting with a local physical therapist, the elbow/knee enclosure, circuitry, and coding. We ultimately decided to focus on creating a device for a patient’s knee that is built out of a neoprene enclosure and visualizes progress with two EL wires powered by a thin, rechargeable lithium ion battery. The research team also experimented with electroluminescent tape, but it was not flexible enough for the project and was much harder to splice together. Alice and Miranda also worked on a poster submission for the Grace Hopper conference. We plan to continue iterating on the prototype and conducting a user study this summer so that we can submit a final publication to the ACM International Health Informatics Symposium or the ACM Computer Human Interaction Conference. Alice and Miranda continue to attend weekly meetings with Swamy Ananthanarayan and attend weekly lab meetings with Professor Siek and the rest of the Wellness Innovation and Interaction Lab.
  • End of Spring 2012 Update: Alice and Miranda continue to iterate on the various modules of the wearable El wire prototype. Specifically, Alice has examined how to charge the lithium ion battery that powers the device, and explored the use of Android for helping patients and physical therapists visualize progress. She has also started low-fidelity application prototypes for the therapist’s interface in HTML5 and CSS3. Meanwhile, Miranda has been iterating on the wearable enclosure and the associated EL wire circuitry.  We recently reworked our original one-piece knee enclosure design to a convenient two-piece design that sits on the lower thigh and upper calf connected via a bend sensor. This new design is simpler and less restrictive of movement. Lastly, we are also starting the Institutional Review Board approval for the study we are conducting this summer. Most recently, Alice and Miranda were notified that their poster submission was accepted into Grace Hopper. Alice and Miranda regularly attend weekly lab meetings with Professor Siek and the rest of the Wellness Innovation and Interaction lab and specific project meetings with Swamy Ananthanarayan.
  • First Summer 2012 Update: The start of the summer has been very productive for Alice and Miranda. The various modules they have been iterating on over the past 6 months are finally starting to take shape. Miranda has finalized on the knee enclosure design and came up with a new novel angled enclosure that is more ergonomic than our initial design. She is currently implementing the design in neoprene. Meanwhile, Alice has been working on testing the reliability and accuracy of the various flex sensors. Specifically, she examined the resistive consistency of a custom neoprene bend sensor and the classic plastic flex sensor. We are currently leaning towards the neoprene flex sensor as the results show repeatable values across multiple knee positions and placements. We are also working on the required IRB paperwork for the upcoming study in July. Miranda and Alice work in the lab everyday and continue to attend both the individual and weekly lab meetings with Dr. Katie Siek and Swamy Ananthanarayan.