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Human-Technology Interaction

Gesture Recognition 

    Gestures provide a physical form of human-computer interaction (HCI) that has benefits for unencumbered control and rehabilitative therapy. Unfortunately, gesture interfaces are typically designed for individuals that     are able-bodied. 

    In our lab we have designed a software engine to systematically convert standard gesture lexicons into gestures that are usable by individuals with upper extremity mobility impairments. 

Related papers: 

  • Jiang, H., Duerstock, B., Wachs, J. (2016) User-Centered and Analytic-Based Approaches to Generate Usable Gestures for Individuals with Quadriplegia. IEEE Trans Human-Machine Systems, 46(3), 460-466.

  • Jiang, H., Duerstock, B.S., Wachs, J.P. (2014) A Machine Vision-Based Gestural Interface for People with Upper Extremity Physical Impairments. IEEE Trans on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics: Systems, 44(5), 630-641.

  • Jiang, H., Wachs, J.P., Duerstock, B.S. (2013) An Optimized Real-Time Hands Gesture Recognition Based Interface for Individuals with Upper-Level Spinal Cord Injuries. J Real-Time Image Processing, 1-14.

Assistive Robotics 

Assistive robotics has the potential to assist persons with disabilities .  Persons with mobility impairments lack the number and precision of body effectors for the sophisticated control needed for performing most robotic-assisted tasks.

In our lab, we design technologies to assist individuals with mobility disabilities with daily living activities (DLA).

Related papers:

  • Chen, K., Tang, S., Jiang, H., Wachs, J.P., Duerstock, B.S. Practical Implications for the Design of Mobile Assistive Robots for Quadriplegics Using a Service Dog Model", In Proc. of IROS 2014 Workshop on Assistive Robotics for Individuals with Disabilities: HRI Issues and Beyond, Sept. 14, 2014.

  • Jiang, H., Zhang, T., Wachs, J., Duerstock, B.S. (2016) Enhanced Control of a Wheelchair-Mounted Robotic Manipulator Using 3-D Vision and Multimodal Interaction. Computer Vision and Image Understanding, 149, 21-31.

Multimodal Sensory Substitution

A multimodal image perception system   Multimodal sensory substitution enables blind or visually impaired individuals perceive images through sensors other than vision. Currently, it is challenging for blind or visually impaired people to interpret real-time visual scientific data that is commonly generated during lab experimentation, such as performing light microscopy, spectrometry, and observing chemical reactions.

In our lab, we have developed a multimodal image perception system which can substitute visual information with other sensory modalities, such as tactile, auditory and haptics. 

Related papers: 

 Zhang, T., Williams, G.J., Duerstock, B.S., Wachs, J.P. “Multimodal approach to image perception of histology for the blind or visually impaired”, In Proc. of 2014 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics   (SMC2014), Oct. 5-8, 2014.

  • T. Zhang, B. Duerstock ,J. Wachs. "Multimodal Perception of Histological Images for Persons Who Are Blind of Visually Impaired". ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing (TACCESS) 9(3), 2017

Featured in New Scientist:

Wearable Computing

Physiological Telemetry

We are currently developing a physiological-based telemetry system i to detect secondary health complications associated with spinal cord injury, including autonomic dysreflexia and temperature dysregulation.

The goal of this research is to train the user to predict the onset of these conditions before they become medically detrimental and to remotely alert caregivers when they occur wherever the user is located.  

Related papers: 

  • Suresh, S., Duerstock, H., & Duerstock, B. (2015, November). "Skin Resistance as a Physiological Indicator for Quadriplegics with Spinal Cord Injuries During Activities of Daily Living". In International Conference on Smart Health (pp. 157-168). Springer International Publishing.

Wrist Orthotics 

    Individuals with a cervical spinal cord injury have limited mobility in their arms due to weakness of the muscles.

     In our lab, we are designing a low cost wrist orthotic that uses gestures to perform various activities of daily life such as opening a door, swiping a credit card. 

Related papers: 

  • Suresh, S., Chiquito, D.F.M , Manda,S., Jacob L., Duerstock, B (2016, July)."Motor-Activated Multi-Functional Wrist Orthotic to Assist Individuals with Cervical Spinal Cord Injuries with Activities of Daily Living". RESNA/NCART Proceedings. 

Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in STEM

Photo of wheelchair user using an accessible light microscope   The inclusion of persons with disabilities in science, technology, engineering  and mathematics (STEM) careers is significantly lower than other populations. The practical or "hands-on" nature of STEM secondary and postsecondary learning and research has traditionally deterred or prevented the active participation of persons with disabilities. 

Photo of front cover  of From  College to Careers  booklet

   'From College to  Careers:  Fostering Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in STEM' discusses the challenges  and solutions for including persons with disabilities in STEM fields of study. The PDF  of this booklet  can be downloaded at the following URL:

Related papers: 

  • Mansoor, A., Ahmed, W., Samarapungavan, A., Cirillo, J., Schwarte, D., Robinson, J.P., Duerstock, B.S. (2010) AccessScope Project: Accessible Light Microscope for Users with Upper Limb Mobility or Visual Impairments. Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol 5(2): 143-152.

  • Ranchal, R., Taber-Doughty, T., Guo, Y., Bain, K., Martin, H., Robinson, J.P., Duerstock, B.S. (2013) Using Speech Recognition for Real-Time Captioning and Lecture Transcription in the Classroom. IEEE Trans on Learning Technologies 6(4): 299-311.

SCI Neurotrauma

Histological image of  spinal cord with ascending-descending myelomalaciaDr. Duerstock is an associate of the Center for Paralysis Research (CPR), which investigates innovative approaches to  reduce the amount of  neuronal damage after neurotrauma, recover behavioral function, and/or stimulate regeneration  of neurons. more information can be found at their website,

I am personally interested in studying new models of neurotrauma, such as ascending-descending myelomalacia in dogs to better elucidate the mechanisms of secondary injury after spinal cord injury (SCI) in humans. Previously,, Dr. Duerstock used 3-D reconstruction of serial sections to better visualize the pathological events occurring during central hemorrhagic necrosis in spinal cord. This method could also be used to validate the efficacy of  potential therapies in animals.

Related papers: 

  • Duerstock, B.S. and Borgens, R.B. (2002) Three-Dimensional Morphometry of Spinal Cord Injury Following Polyethylene Glycol Treatment.  J Exp Biol 205(1): 13-24.

  • Marquis, A., Packer, R.A., Borgens, R.B., Duerstock, B.S. (2015) Increase in Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in Dogs with Ascending-Descending Myelomalacia Following Spinal Cord Injury. J Neurol Sci, 353(1), 63-69.


Accessible Transportation

Photo of group evaluation of a wheelchair liftWe are interested in  improving transportation for individuals with disabilities from private vehicles to commercial  mass transit including land and air transportation. A systems engineering approach is needed to investigate all the steps during transportation. Solutions will comprise of improvements in communication, operations, and  technologies. Global solutions depend upon the involvement of researchers, industry, and policymakers.