Virtual Rehabilitation

Technology-assisted motor rehabilitation is today one of the most potentially interesting application areas for research in sonic interaction design (SID). The strong social implications, the novelty of such a rapidly advancing field, as well as its inherently interdisciplinary nature (contents combine topics in robotics, virtual reality, haptics, as well as neuroscience and rehabilitation) are some of the aspects that consolidate its challenging and captivating character. Such prospects justify the considerable amount of attention it has received in the last decade from researchers in the fields of both medicine and engineering, the purpose of their joint effort being the development of innovative methods to treat motor disabilities occurring as a consequence of several possible traumatic (physical or neurological) injuries, e.g. stroke.


Strong motivations for integrating interactive sound into motor rehabilitation systems can be found by examining in some detail the most prominent current research challenges in the field of rehabilitation robotics. Several studies have shown that auditory feedback purposedly designed to be related with physical movement can result in attainment of optimal arousal during physical activity, reduction of the perceived physical effort, and improvement of mood during training. Moreover, engagement is strictly related to the concept of presence, i.e. the perception of realism and immersion in a virtual environment, commonly used in virtual reality research. In this respect, it is known that faithful spatial sound rendering increases the realism of a virtual environment, even in a task-oriented context.

Still, very little attention towards audio is paid today in the robotic rehabilitation community. Auditory feedback is mostly implemented in a virtual reality context, to reproduce realistic environmental sounds with the aim of increasing the user’s sense of presence. Only in very few cases it is utilized to support the motor learning process, providing an augmented feedback to the user.

Target following task

In this context, different investigations are being carried out by members of the SMC group in an international collaboration with the Department of Mechanical Innovation and Management (University of Padova), the University of Delaware and the University of California Irvine. The goal of such joint effort is to study the benefits brought by auditory feedback in augmenting motor training exercises for the upper and lower limbs compared to both the visual and proprioceptive modalities, and ultimately to incorporate an optimized real-time auditory feedback related to one or more variables (e.g. position error or velocity) in augmented-feedback robotic or virtual rehabilitation systems, in order to improve clinical outcomes of therapy.


Research Threads

3D Audio
Audio in multimodal interfaces
Audio restoration
Interactive environments for learning
Music expression modeling
Physically-based sound modeling
Virtual rehabilitation

History of CSC research



A complete list of projects and industrial partners can be found here.