Technology

Pioneering innovations to support inclusion for people with disabilities
Technology is an enabler that has revolutionised communications and mobility options for people with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities.

From robotics and exoskeletons to eye-gaze technology and implants, many things that seemed impossible a generation ago are now a reality and already making a huge difference for people with CP and their families.

Our team of engineers, therapists and researchers are advancing hugely exciting projects to further unlock the future of assistive technology to make positive change on an emotional, physical and intellectual level by breaking down barriers to communicate, move and participate.

Assistive technology holds the promise of an exciting future for people with CP. Robots will be able to help with tasks, and exoskeleton suits will provide strength and the ability to exercise. People with CP and other non-degenerative disabilities will be able to choose to have an array of cochlear-like implants like to wirelessly reconnect their muscles and communications devices to raise their voices – this is the future we’re working towards.

"Innovative technology can facilitate greater participation, inclusion and independence for people with disability” - Dr Petra Karlsson, Technology Program Lead, Cerebral Palsy Alliance

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The Technology team

Researcher Dr Petra Karlsson

Dr Petra Karlsson

Program Lead for Technology, Adjunct Senior Lecturer
Alistair McEwan
Chair of Technology & Innovation
Darryl Chiu

Darryl Chiu

Research Assistant
Ingrid Honan

Dr Ingrid Honan

Senior Research Fellow Cognition, CP Strategy
Amelia Mitchell

Amelia Mitchell

Research Psychologist
Nicola Postol

Nicola Postol

Research Fellow
Annemarie Murphy

Annemarie Murphy

Research Officer

Find out more about Remarkable, our disability tech startup accelerator

What we're working on:

  • CogTEST – Children
    • Did you know less than 1 in 3 children with cerebral palsy are able to participate in formal cognitive assessments due to communication challenges? To increase accessibility of these valuable thinking skills assessments, we have adapted a number of assessment tools that can be administered via switch and eye-gaze control technologies.

      We now invite children aged between 5 and 15 years, currently using switch and eye-gaze technology, to help us test accessibility of these tools for children with motor and speech impairment.

      If you or your child want to get involved, or read more information, please contact Dr Petra Karlsson at pkarlsson@cerebralpalsy.org.au or 0447 508 661

  • Executive functioning – PhD
  • Low Motor Bayley study
  • Westmead feelings project
  • SwitchApp
    • In collaboration with the Holland Bloorview Research Institute in Canada, CPA are developing a software for recognising sound or facial movements from a user. These movements and sounds can then be used as commands for controlling a computer or communication board. Switch-App is an AI based program that can learn a person’s specific movement and keywords, so that it can be used easily by the user in a home environment.
  • My Voice Library
    • We are a multi-stakeholder research team, including people with lived experience of cerebral palsy, clinicians, engineers and researchers conducting a research study to create a database that will be used by engineers to develop technology to improve communication for children with cerebral palsy with dysarthria.  If you are interested in participating, or would like to learn more please email myvoicelibrary@cerebralpalsy.org.au.
  • Telehealth for eye-gaze technology users- SQUID
    • SQUID – Standalone Quadripartite User Interface Device.

      This product is designed to provide people with cerebral palsy who use assistive technology for communication, and their clinicians, access to easily set up two-way tele- rehabilitation for remote learning and therapy sessions.

  • Music therapy in NICUs – PhD
  • SoftRobotics
    • CPA is collaborating with the Chinese University of Hong Kong utilising pneumatic actuators as a ‘soft exoskeleton’ to assist with different movements (such as walking or sit to stand) for children with cerebral palsy. Inflatable cuffs are place around the knees, and when inflated, assist the child to stand up and walk.

  • Car survey
    • We are investigating the perspective of people with CP on increasing accessibility for driving and transport. We are asking their opinions on car modifications and self-driving autonomous vehicles to better understand how researchers and manufacturers can improve the driving experience for people with CP.

  • Novel transfer system
    • Transfer Systems is a company which has recently released the MODEL ONE, a new way to transfer people. This is a novel design in which the machine lifts the user from below on an inflatable mattress while on a fixed base, removing rolling resistance. Swinging/dynamic forces are removed, allowing for precise placement of the user from one place to another. The machine can be used for sit-to-stand transfers, lateral transfers, and more.

  • Management of Pain and Anxiety following lower limb surgeries – PhD
  • TechToys program – Honours projects
    • We are looking at modifying toys to better suit the needs of children with disabilities. We currently have multiple engineering honours students adapting different toys, including an accessible busy board and a touch-free instrument.

  • Eating and swallowing honours project
  • BCI optimised for people with CP – PhD

Projects we've completed:

  • The overall aim of the Eyes on Communication body of work led by Dr Karlsson it to improve communication, play, leisure, social, work and participation outcomes for those with severe cerebral palsy with complex communication needs who need eye-gaze control technology. The specific aim of this component of this project is to develop clinical guidelines for eye-gaze control technology implementation, including assessment, set up, communication partner instruction and evaluation to support service provision for children and youth with cerebral palsy. The Delphi survey, along with available literature, is Integral to building consensus to inform the content of the guidelines.
    Chief Investigator:
    • Dr Petra Karlsson – Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute
    • Associate Investigators: Dr Margaret Wallen, Dr Michael Clarke, Dr Elegast Monbaliu, A/Prof Kate Himmelmann, Mr Tom Griffiths, Mrs Claire Galea, Mrs Rene Pereskles, Mrs Abigail Allsop, Ms Saranda Bekteshi
    • Funding information: Perpetual; Roger Montgomery Family Trust, 2018
  • Accurate cognitive assessment of people with cerebral palsy (CP) is necessary to target interventions for communication, social participation, and education. Current assessments require speech or motor ability, so are unsuitable for people with significant physical disability. Some assessments can be adapted for Eye-Gaze Interface (EGI) (requiring only eye movements) and Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) (requiring no movement). These interfaces are promising options for cognitive assessment. This study compares EGI with BCI in administering a vocabulary test to determine which more effectively accommodates people with multiple impairments. Children and adults with CP in the United States and Australia will compare the interfaces.
    Investigators:
    • Dr Jane Huggins, Prof Seth Warschausky, Dr Petra Karlsson
    • Funding information: Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation, 2016

What we're working on:

  • Accessible TechToys for infants with CP
  • MyVoice Library
  • Neural interfaces for long-term implantable therapy in CP 
    Acquired brain injuries (ABIs) account for the overwhelming majority of movement disorders. Electrical stimulation is an established approach for the restoration of muscle movement, but its utility as a therapy has thus far been limited by: poor selectivity in the activation of desired muscles producing unwanted contractions and co-activation of motor and sensory fibres. In this study we focus on solving these two key issues. Targeted stimulation or blocking of fibres that lead to rigidity and pain would alleviate these two major areas of unmet need in cerebral palsy. 
    Chief Investigators:
    • Prof Alistair McEwan – University of Sydney 
    • Prof Gregg Suaning – University of Sydney
    • Dr Claudia Gschwind – Royal North Shore Hospital
    • Dr Timothy Scott – University of NSW
    • Funding information: Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation, 2018-2019

Projects we've completed:

  • The overall aim of the Eyes on Communication body of work led by Dr Karlsson it to improve communication, play, leisure, social, work and participation outcomes for those with severe cerebral palsy with complex communication needs who need eye-gaze control technology. The specific aim of this component of this project is to develop clinical guidelines for eye-gaze control technology implementation, including assessment, set up, communication partner instruction and evaluation to support service provision for children and youth with cerebral palsy. The Delphi survey, along with available literature, is Integral to building consensus to inform the content of the guidelines.
    Chief Investigator:
    • Dr Petra Karlsson – Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute
    • Associate Investigators: Dr Margaret Wallen, Dr Michael Clarke, Dr Elegast Monbaliu, A/Prof Kate Himmelmann, Mr Tom Griffiths, Mrs Claire Galea, Mrs Rene Pereskles, Mrs Abigail Allsop, Ms Saranda Bekteshi
    • Funding information: Perpetual; Roger Montgomery Family Trust, 2018
    • Accurate cognitive assessment of people with cerebral palsy (CP) is necessary to target interventions for communication, social participation, and education. Current assessments require speech or motor ability, so are unsuitable for people with significant physical disability. Some assessments can be adapted for Eye-Gaze Interface (EGI) (requiring only eye movements) and Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) (requiring no movement). These interfaces are promising options for cognitive assessment. This study compares EGI with BCI in administering a vocabulary test to determine which more effectively accommodates people with multiple impairments. Children and adults with CP in the United States and Australia will compare the interfaces.
      Investigators:
      • Dr Jane Huggins, Prof Seth Warschausky, Dr Petra Karlsson
      • Funding information: Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation, 2016