Virtual reality glasses as walking aid In response to certain visual cues, some Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients experience ‘kinesia paradoxa’ in which major symptoms disappear, and mobility and well-being are greatly increased.

The EU-funded PARREHA project explored the use of virtual reality cues to trigger kinesia paradoxa and provide significant improvements in mobility. The project developed spectacles that project virtual lines at the side of the wearer’s eye. This can transform some patients’ movement from the familiar PD shuffling gait to a normal walk.

A wearable walking aid

The wearable walking aid developed by OCC from the PARREHA project is known as ParkWalker or INDIGO. The Parkinson’s Disease Society funded a 2-year clinical trial on these virtual reality glasses.

The video below shows a subject with PD walking without help and showing typical symptoms such as shuffling and slowness of movement. Sheets of white paper are then laid in a row in front of the subject to act as a visual cue. The presence of the cue triggers kinesia paradoxa and the subject’s gait is transformed.

The next video (below) also shows someone with typical PD symptoms. The subject is wearing the ParkWalker walking aid, initially raised out of his field of view. When an assistant lowers the headset, the subject sees scrolling black and white stripes presenting visual cues similar to the sheets of paper in the first video. This also triggers kinesia paradoxa, greatly improving the subject’s mobility.

Anyone who is interested in kinesia paradoxa and the wearable walking aid should be aware that the aid only helps a small percentage of people with PD in intermediate stages. However, the size of this group of people and the typical characteristics of their PD are not known. Kinesia paradoxa itself is also not well understood.

The PARREHA project was a 3-year R&D project to develop and test prototype devices to aid people with Parkinson’s disease and the PD research community. PARREHA explored three key ideas: a wearable walking aid, a virtual reality exercise environment and care and assessment via videoconferencing. The project partners set up ParkAid, a company dedicated to developing assistive aids for people with PD. Currently ParkAid is concentrating on the wearable walking aid.


The ParkService project aims to bring people with Parkinson’s disease, carers, doctors and therapists together with a new innovative service which raises the quality of life for everyone affected by this disease.

The EC’s programme promoting the deployment of European networked services, eTen, has lent its support to ParkService, funding an 18-month project to validate the market for this service.

We are analysing, networking and demonstrating pilot sites in Germany, Italy and Greece to establish our route into the European health market.

Our ParkService partners:

  • ParkAid: owners of INDIGO and ParkService
  • Schneckenhaus: self-help and campaigning group run by and for people with Parkinson’s disease
  • La Fondazione Grigioni per il Morbo di Parkinson: the Italian foundation for research into Parkinson’s disease
  • Institute of Neurology: a world leader for neurological research at University College London
  • Institute of Communication and Computer Systems at the National Technical University of Athens: one of the inventors of INDIGO
  • IES Solutions Srl: an Italian technology consultancy with a long involvement in INDIGO and Parkinson’s disease