In 2015, I started to test the market for technology (apps and software) that OTs could integrate into practice in the area of vision rehabilitation.
As part of this journey, I developed collaborations with teams in universities in England and Scotland. After months of testing and communicating with developers, I had to admit that we were able to do better by developing apps and software from scratch with our students. The difference that we make is that we test with clients and therapists as we go. The other apps were developed by academics with seemingly no clinical interface before they were launched. Since then I have developed a system of teaming up third year occupational therapy with IT students.
In this ways, we have developed apps for screening; for vision tracking; and for vision simulation. A current third year is developing simulation using virtual reality. Another current third year has developed eye tracking softwared. My third year OT students test this technology with clients and provide feedback. As part of this development, I have embedded regular consultation with a group of occupational therapists into the research process. They give me immediate feedback about the usability of the technology.
The apps are now in the Playstore (under Otago Polytechnic).
Kate Charleworth (honours, 2016) completed her dissertation, examining how we can gamify stroke therapy, using the AbleX. After this Kate got a scholarship to do her masters in bioengineering, and how has a scholarship to do her doctorate. This seems to be a fertile area for occupational therapists to be working in.
Another area of technology transfer has been the development of an intergenerational volunteering program, where IT students go out each week to help older adults to use their digital devices. I initially developed this program as an occupational therapy student placement. There was considerable interest and eventually we realised that it was a perfect fit for the IT students.