sMAP CREATE Researchers Receive Award

The McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA) and the Labarge Centre for Mobility in Aging (LCMA) has announced newly funded research for 2021.

Among the recipients is a group of sMAP Researchers, Dr. Rong Zheng from the department of Computing and Software in the Faculty of Engineering along with Dr. Paula Gardner and Dr. Brenda Vrkljan from the School of Rehabilitation Science in collaboration with Dr. Lisa Carlesso from the School of Rehabilitation Science.

As a natural outcome of the sMAP CREATE Program, this group of researchers will use the awarded funds on a project of annotating virtual tai chi sessions to improve learning and health outcomes for older adults with the assistance of Bruce Thong, a Tai Chi Master, who throughout Covid has continued to lead older adults in the practice of Tai Chi virtually.

Tai Chi is often described as “meditation in motion” due to its low-impact and slow motion. There is growing evidence that as a mind-body practice, Tai Chi, which originated from Chinese martial art, has value in treating and preventing many health problems among older adults. During the pandemic, like other forms of group exercise, Tai Chi sessions had to be offered online. In Tai Chi, correct body postures, hand gestures and foot placement are complex and important information for participants to ensure that they get the full benefits of the exercise. Such information is difficult to convey through traditional video-recorded sessions due to occlusion of the instructor’s body from the video camera and lack of real-time feedback. This project aims to develop a computer vision-based, video annotation tool to extract key joints movements, palm facing, hand position, indication of weight bearing legs in real-time, and overlay such information onto one’s video screen to guide participants during online Tai Chi sessions. We will overcome the occlusion issue of a single camera view through human kinematic modelling. A human-entered approach will be taken in the design of graphic user interface (GUI) layout and elements. A focus group study will be carried out online amongst older adults to understand their diverse needs and preferences.