origin – fall prevention
reha buddy’s story originates in the idea of Dr. Wolfgang Zagler, at the time associate professor at the Technical University of Vienna. He had the vision to predict and prevent falls by means of an electronic shoe (later called “eSHOE”). Over the years this idea transitioned from an electronic shoe for fall prevention to a pair of instrumented shoe insoles for mobile gait analysis.
mobile gait analysis
These shoe insoles were the basis of a series of research projects and scientific studies, carried out by the non-university research institute CEIT Raltec, led by Walter Hlauschek. This research also led to two PhD theses at the TU Vienna, carried out by Johannes Oberzaucher („iAssessment – Aspekte eines instrumentierten Sturzrisikoassessments basierend auf einer extramuralen Gang- und Bewegungsanalyse – im Hinblick auf eine Anwendung im Bereich des Ambient Assisted Living“) and Harald Jagoš („Mobile Gait Analysis via instrumented Shoe Insoles – eSHOE – Detection of movement patterns and development of other experimental features“). The theses were supervised by by Wolfgang Zagler und a.o. Univ.-Prof. i.R. DDDr. Frank Rattay. Ms. Prim. Prof. Dr. Katharina Pils, at the time head of the institute of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Sophienspital in Vienna, provided the medical-scientific expertise. Two clinical pilot studies have been carried out under her supervision.
In the course of the colaboration with Prim. Pils a number of students from the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien worked on related topics about which they subsequently wrote their Bachelor’s and Master’s theses. The UAS Technikum Wien, under the former study program director Martin Reichel from Healthcare and Rehabilitation Technology, became one of the first and important research partner. The theses from Veronika David („Development of Validation Methods for the Mobile Gait and Motion Pattern Analysis System vitaliSHOE“) and Stefan Reich („Development of a software package to gather, analyze and store gait data with the mobile motion analysis system eSHOE“) were crucial contributions in the area of validation and signal processing algorithms.
The most recent research projects are “MISTRAAL” (FFG proj. number: 840716), funded within the program benefit by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). The Medical University of Vienna’s Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering held the scientific lead of the project, in the person of associate professor Dr. Dietmar Rafolt. Further partners in the project were the Neurologische Rehabilitationszentrum Rosenhügel, the UAS Technikum Wien and A3L e-solutions GmbH (mednanny). Then there was the project „REHABitation“ led by the UAS Technikum Wien, which was funded by the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (bmvit) and the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy (BMWFW) in the funding program COIN “Aufbau”, 5th call of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG.
In the course of REHABitation first a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s theses at the UAS Technikum Wien were carried out by Andrés Tkachenko, who later became co-founder of reha buddy. While working on those theses, Andrés developed a smartphone app for a special application of the instrumented insoles (eSHOE). The app provides the wearer of the insoles with feedback about the distribution of the load beneath his or her feet. When a certain threshold (e.g. 50% of body weight) is exceeded, the app plays a warning sound. This development had been initiated by Prim. Katharina Pils, who wanted to improve the compliance of her hip fracture patients. Some of those patients have a strict restriction, which only allows them to load a certain amount of their body weight (e.g. 50 %) on their injured leg. Conventionally, those patients are being trained on an ordinary scale, which should teach them how much weight they are allowed to load on the affected leg. Usually, the compliance to this restriction is very bad, because patients cannot remember or recall the feeling of the partial weight-bearing or they are affected by pain (killers). This is where the eSHOE insoles and the app came in. With them it became possible to determine the compressive load and provide patients with feedback about it. They received real-time information via a tablet-PC or smartphone and if they exceeded the prescribed threshold an alarm went off. This application has been evaluated in a clinical pilot study under the dedicated medical support of Dr. Jakob Gaudernak. All patients achieved much better results (compliance) when they received feedback about their load distribution. Patients and medical personnel alike commended the support the app had provided and both wanted to continue to use it. This represented the final push to start the process of turning the longterm research project into a startup and, thereby, marked the birth of reha buddy. During the following transition phase a longtime coworker of Dietmar Rafolt, Paul Kressnik, joined our founding team, adding further valuable skills.