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A Virtual Walk Though the Park is Anything But

June 9, 2011 | By kobylangley
Imagine walking through a park on a cool summer day ... a winding pathway brings you up and down a gentle rolling hill.  You feel the weight of your body stress against your new titanium leg, and lean forward into the hill ... getting to the crest just as you stop, rest and enjoy the scenery and gentle hum of birds and laughing children.  You are a Wounded Warrior and months ago, this may have seemed impossible.  Not as amazing, but darned incredible in its own right -- you may not be at a local park at all.  You may be at the new Walter Reed Bethesda Military Advanced Training Center that offers rehabilitating Soldiers cutting edge equipment to improve their recovery.  The site contains one of only two "gait labs" in the Nation, and utilizes 23 infra-red cameras mounted around the room to gather data on gait and assist in the rehabilitative plan to ensure proper prosthetic fit and alignment.   Another innovation is the Computer Assisted Rehab Environment (CAREN), which is designed to build a virtual environment around a patient performing tasks on a treadmill bolted to a helicopter simulator. The CAREN uses a video capture system similar to the gait lab, but with an interactive platform that responds to the patient's every move.  There are only three CAREN systems like this in the world.