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Research Case studies

Technologies for Health and Wellbeing

Our work

Our research focuses on computational and engineering approaches to improve people’s health, happiness and quality of life in a wide range of settings, including at home, in education, in the workplace and in care. We collaborate with stakeholders in the NHS, other healthcare organisations, engineering companies and directly with end users. Research focuses on two key areas:

  2. Our HCI research champions participatory design approaches to ensure that digital solutions match the needs and expectations of end users. End-users are involved in all stages of the design process, including co-research, co-ideation, co-design and co-production. Projects include:

    • Interactive toolkits to support autistic students during the transition into university (EU-funded Autism&Uni project 2013-2016) and out of university (EU-funded IMAGE project 2018-2021).
    • Technology to facilitate positive behaviour change, e.g. weight management apps to help with planning and tracking (with MoreLife UK, see
    • Self-management of diabetes 2 through guided information seeking.
  4. We use models to understand and predict behaviour of humans or machines, e.g. in order to develop new diagnostic tools or assess people at risk of injury or harm. Typically, in our work the inputs are from sensors that measure physiological or environmental parameters from which the system (or human) behaviours can be inferred. Advances in sensor technology, together with the decreasing costs of sensors, have led to their extensive use for assessing a person’s actions, activity levels, and behaviours. We focus on monitoring a person’s general activity or a movement while exercising (rehabilitation). Several projects fall in this category:

    • Monitor and analyse the movement patterns of people in a care home setting (with Omega Security Systems).
    • Prediction models based on gait analysis to estimate fall risk of elderly people at home (with Kuala Lumpur University) 
    • Virtual Physiotherapist to provide remote post-stroke rehabilitation management
    • Sound analysis for monitoring and assessing stammer.

Our impact

  2. There are an estimated 235,000 autistic adults with no learning difficulties in the UK. However, 84% are not in full time work, costing the UK economy in excess of 10 billion pounds annually. Knapp (2007) estimated that each additional autistic person that finishes university and enters the workplace reduces the economical cost of autism by around £70,000.

    The Autism&Uni and IMAGE projects directly contribute to reducing this cost by reducing university drop-out rates and increasing employability of autistic graduates. The Autism&Uni toolkit, which helps autistic students navigate the transition into university, has been adopted by 6 UK universities, reaching around 300 new autistic students per year. A further 8 universities are currently trialling the toolkit.

    The Autism&Uni Best Practice Guides for university staff have been downloaded more than 5000 times since launched in 2016. Both the National Autistic Society and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education use and endorse the guides. In a recent impact survey, 85% of respondents said the guides had increased their autism awareness, whilst 61% of lecturers and 51% of disability advisors reported that they had changed their daily practice when supporting autistic students.

    Therefore, our autism research produces a direct and measurable impact on UK society and economy. The IMAGE project will further increase this impact by improving employability skills and employment figures for autistic graduates, therefore reducing the economic cost of supporting unemployed graduates and increasing autistic people’s engagement with, and contribution to, society.

  4. The virtual physiotherapist (VP) project - Every year, over 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke and almost a million people in the UK are living with the after-effects.  Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the UK and those who survive live with a variety of cognitive and physical problems. The more common ones are physical such as weakness and paralysis of one or more limbs, spasticity, problems of balance, speech and changes in sensation. There is no cure, but some function can be regained with rehabilitation therapies until a plateau is reached. Research indicates that frequent physiotherapy is beneficial and some improvement in function can be achieved. Several factors limit the amount of time in supervised physiotherapy sessions; economic factors, travel to/from health, and motivation. The VP is a video-based system which allows the patient to exercise at home, provides feedback, assesses the patient’s performance and provides an ‘objective measure’ of progress.

    Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a collection of debilitating disorders affecting nerves, blood vessels, muscles and joints. In severe cases it leads to chronic severe pain and cramps or numbness in the arms, wrists, hands and fingers. It can also impact manual dexterity and the ability to grip and manipulate objects. In the UK, for the last decade, HAVS was the most prevalent industrial injury recorded under the Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit scheme. Surveys indicate that over a million UK workers may be at risk of developing vibration injury. Once a vibration injury is fully developed, it is irreversible. We are working in partnership with Abbey Industrial Solutions Ltd who supply and service industrial power tools and provide expertise on the reduction of harmful vibration exposure. Their clients include blue chip industrial companies, utilities, transport and construction companies. With funding from Innovate UK (now part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)), we have established a Knowledge Transfer Partnership that centres on the research and monitoring of harmful hand-transmitted vibration and the development of a solution that will be unique in its approach to mitigating risk of excessive exposure across a very wide range of industrial contexts.

Other projects

  • Innovative diagnostic support tools for Parkinson’s disease (with Calderdale & Wakefield NHS Trust), Dementia (with St George’s, University of London), and depression (with Leeds General Infirmary and University of Leeds).

Development of a smart mattress that reduces the development of pressure sores in chronically ill and elderly people, in secondary NHS care and care home settings (with Essential Healthcare Solutions).

Lifting the lid on the murky world of arms sales, the artist Jill Gibbon has been infiltrating trade fairs organized by the defence industry for the last decade.

Celia Hatton, BBC World Service, 2018

Next steps

The IMAGE project started in October 2018 and over three years will produce resources and evidence related to closing the employability gap for autistic university graduates across Europe. Leeds Beckett University has a long tradition of supporting autistic students through a number of innovative schemes, the most recent one being a pilot with the National Autistic Society on making the university application process fully accessible to autistic students. We will build on this expertise and tradition by attracting further funding and establishing our university as a recognised centre for autism research.

In the media:


IMAGE project

  • Free University Amsterdam
  • University of Helsinki
  • Medical School Berlin
  • University of Toulouse

Diagnostic support tools

  • Leeds City Council
  • Calderdale & Wakefield NHS Trust
  • St George’s, University of London
  • Leeds General Infirmary
  • University of Leeds

Healthcare technology development

  • Omega Healthcare
  • Essential Healthcare Solutions
  • Abbey Healthcare

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