The other day Daily Planet presented a segment on a lab that studies the effects of unique planning conditions on the body. The iDAPT Centre for Rehabilitation Research in Toronto consists of 12 cutting-edge labs, workshops, and other reasearch spaces to safely study how adults, specifically those with disabilities, interact with their environment.
Inside this lab, they have created the Challenging Environmental Assessment Lab (CEAL) which consists of
“the world’s first hydraulic motion simulator that can mimic everyday environmental challenges faced by older people and those with disabling illness and injury.” (Toronto Rehab Website.)
Three parts of the amazing iDAPT CEAL are the Stair Lab, the Winter Lab and the Street Lab. You can view the overall floor plan here. In each lab, they place sensors on the test subjects to see what the effects of the motions have on the participants.
Stair Lab: The stair lab measures the effects of stairs on the motion of people climbing up and down them. The stair case itself consists of “8 steps with 7” risers and 11” runs.” 1.4m high by 2.0 m wide and 6m long, it has “turning stations” at the top and bottom. The treads are
“made of plywood that can be removed and refinished or replaced. This will accommodate studies using different surfaces, markings and nose sizes… Also, an interchangeable and instrumented railing system will be incorporated and will be able to measure forces exerted, for example, when recovering from an induced overstep or a trip provoked by a controlled movement of the stairs. These movements can be triggered by the 3D motion system when a predetermined event is detected (e.g. a foot is about to land on a particular step).” (CEAL Website)
Winter Lab: The winter lab tests the body’s reaction times on slippery winter surfaces. It has a motion simulator base that changes the angle of the platform.
Street Lab: The street lab consists of a walkway or wheelchair that mimics streetscapes played on the screens around the subject. The simulator frame rises and lowers the platform as per the conditions of the street being viewed.
The lab is pretty amazing. This kind of lab can have a direct impact on the kinds of products architects and designers specify in their projects, even on the building code itself. Product testers should take advantage of this kind of facility. Personally, I’d love to know if the labs could simulate future sites to ensure people using them are safe, especially for those with mobility issues. A rehabilitation unit in a hospital could use this for training, while the architect could use it to simulate a possible rehabilitation unit. Perhaps they could even test cognitive mapping capabilities. Maybe in the future, they can start to simulate other Evidence-Based Design items, like lighting on slippery environments.
What would you test out with this kind of lab?