Assistive Technology and Rehabilitation Engineering


The assistive technology and rehabilitation engineering group develops technologies to assist people with physical and cognitive disabilities, or social disadvantage. The development of assistive technologies can promote greater independence in the community, by offering alternative or improved tools and systems.

Our research applications are diverse and complex - ranging from traditional assistive technologies to virtual reality assistive applications.


Examples of current research

  • An accessible 'serious gaming' system for children with Cerebral Palsy
  • Independent social skills learning in children with autism
  • Investigating the effectiveness of assistive and mainstream technologies such as iPads and tablet technologies as communication and social networking tools to enhance the social participation of adolescents and adults with lifelong disabilities
  • Combining assistive devices and brain stimulation in rehabilitation
  • Promoting brain plasticity with non-invasive brain stimulation in stroke and movement disorders
  • Investigating the effects of neuromuscular and/or transcranial brain stimulation techniques, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or transcranial direct current simulation (tDCS) on swallowing motor networks and their potential to optimise swallowing rehabilitation outcomes in basic and clinical settings
  • The development of Splashboard, a Kinect-based virtual art program that enables children with severe impairments to create art.


"Did you feel that?" Using haptic gaming to provide children with cerebral palsy with a tactile experience.

Cerebral Palsy is a physical disability that affects movement and posture. It is the most common physical disability in childhood with 17 million people with cerebral palsy worldwide. 1 in 500 Australian babies is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and there is no known cure.

"My PhD is focused on development a novel intervention to improve tactile sensory perception in the hands of children with cerebral palsy".

PhD Candidate, David Hobbs

Depending on their diagnosis, most children with cerebral palsy will undergo extensive rehabilitation throughout their lifetime. Most children also have difficulty detecting and sensing touch with their hands. Although there is a great deal of literature surrounding the prevalence of impaired tactile sensory function, limited if no research has been carried out to determine whether or not tactile sensory function can be improved through training.

PhD Candidate, David Hobbs' research involves developing a custom-made interactive, engaging and accessible haptic serious gaming system for the purposes of providing tactile sensory training via controlled and integrated vibration feedback to the player's hands.


Stroke Rehabilitation 

Recovery after stroke is an initial focus for our rehabilitation research applications, although Alzheimer's and Parkinson's interventions are closely related and will be developed. Research surrounding language and memory utilise our Teaching Head technologies, including assistive technologies and social tutoring for both those suffering the conditions and their family, in particular related children. Physical stroke recovery interventions are being explored in a virtual world/virtual reality environment. Daw Park Repatriation General Hospital are working with us on this project.

Further information is available at the Artificial Intelligence and Language Technology website.


Community Engagement 

Retrofitted electronic aids

Funded by SA Health's Office for the Ageing, this project demonstrated that a range of readily available electronics and electro-mechanical products can be fitted to an existing house or dwelling for less than $10,000.

Working closely with local resident Rosalie (who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1994), MDRI electronic engineers made it possible for Rosalie to undertake a number of activities that she previously needed a carer to assist her with, allowing her to gain greater independence and control over her own life.

Technologies can be applied to a range of settings, from the homes of people with disabilities to the residences of the ageing population wishing to remain in their own homes for longer.

Smart living apartments

Based on expert advice by Flinders University, eight 'smart living' apartments featuring cutting-edge assistive technologies have been purpose built in the North Western suburbs of Adelaide, for those living with disabilities.

The apartments are a major step forward in maximising people's choices and control over their own lives, providing cost benefits and an enhanced quality of life.


For further information about Assistive Technology and Rehabilitation Engineering research within the MDRI, please contact


Post-Graduate Students 

We actively supervise and support many student projects at both Honours and Post-graduate levels and invite students who are interested in pursuing research in this program to contact us for further information.

Examples of current student projects include:

  • David Hobbs - PhD Candidate
    Developing a novel intervention to improve tactile sensory perception in the hands of children with cerebral palsy. 
    News article on Indaily - "More than just fun and games" - October 2011
  • Marissa Milne - PhD Candidate
    Development of a virtual agent based social skills tutoring program for children with autism spectrum disorders.